South Korea raises bird flu alert to highest level for first time

PHOTO: Reuters

South Korea's agriculture ministry raised the country's bird flu alert status to the highest level for the first time on Thursday as the disease has spread quickly nationwide.

The heightened alarm status comes as the country grapples with an outbreak of the highly pathogenic H5N6 bird flu that started a month ago. Since then, South Korea, Asia's fourth-largest economy, has culled over 12 per cent of its poultry population to contain the spread of the virus.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs said in a statement released on Thursday that it will come up with detailed measures to combat the disease under the higher alert status after consulting with related ministries.

The ministry had already ramped up quarantine measures to tackle the spread of the H5N6 virus including issuing a temporary nationwide movement ban as an increasing number of farms have reported outbreaks.

There have been 53 cases of the virus confirmed since mid-November, with another 21 cases being tested, according to the ministry statement.

Outbreaks of avian influenza have been reported in Japan and several European countries including France, which raised its bird flu risk level to high last week.

Cases of human infections from the H5N6 virus have been previously reported elsewhere including China, where it killed 10 people, but no cases of human infections have been detected in South Korea.

South Korea confirms highly pathogenic bird flu outbreaks

  • South Korea's agriculture ministry said it will issue a temporary nationwide ban on the transportation of poultry to contain the spread of bird flu, with 43 outbreaks recorded in Asia's fourth-largest economy.
  • Since the first outbreak of a severe strain of bird flu known as H5N6 was reported on Nov.18., South Korea has ramped up quarantine measures to stop a wider spread of the virus, including issuing a 48-hour nationwide standstill order three weeks ago.
  • To prevent the spread of bird flu, the ministry said at least 8.8 million farm birds were culled and plans to slaughter 1.5 million more. That would be over 10 per cent of the country's poultry population of nearly 85 million.
  • Although cases of human infections from the H5N6 virus have previously been reported elsewhere including China, no cases of human infection have been found in South Korea.
  • South Korean health officials disinfect a stream which migratory birds stay in winter temporarily, to prevent spread of bird flu
  • A South Korean health official disinfects a vehicle to prevent spread of bird flu in Pohang, South Korea

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