Asia spread fears grow as deadly virus brings cull
Last major incident in Chinese mainland in 2013 killed 36 and caused $6.5 billion in losses
A virulent strain of airborne bird flu extended its shadow across northeast Asia as Japan launched a new chicken cull on a southern island, days after gassing hundreds of thousands of birds some 2,400 kilometers to the north.
Tackling Japan’s sixth outbreak since end-November, Kyushu authorities said they will gas just more than 120,000 chickens after the H5 virus was detected on a farm. The island lies close to South Korea, which has ordered a record cull of 20 million birds since first reporting the H5N6 virus just over a month ago.
The rapid spread of the virus has sent health officials across Asia scrambling to contain outbreaks while the poultry industry braces for heavy financial losses.
The last major outbreak in Chinese mainland in 2013 killed 36 people and caused about $6.5 billion in losses to the agriculture sector.
The outbreak in Japan’s Miyazaki prefecture follows the gassing of 200,000 chickens at a farm in Hokkaido last weekend and brings the country’s cull this season to nearly a million chickens and ducks.
The cases in Japan — outbreaks before Miyazaki were all confirmed as H5N6 bird flu — are the first in nearly two years.
In China, chickens are being fed more vitamins and vaccines while farmers also ramp up henhouse sterilization in an effort to protect their flocks.
Fears of the virus’ spread have spooked farmers preparing for the year’s peak meat demand during Lunar New Year celebrations.
“We are worried,” said the manager of a state-owned 100,000 bird farm in Shandong who gave his surname as Tan. “We are stepping up our existing anti-epidemic measures.”
“We feed them (chickens) healthcare products, vitamins and anti-virus medicine,” said Tan. “Previously we fed them (vitamins and medicine) once every three months, but starting from wintertime we feed them once every week,” said Tan, citing outbreaks in other countries as a concern.
As part of protection drive, China now has bans in place on poultry imports from more than 60 countries, including South Korea and Japan as well as parts of Europe now also experiencing a bird flu outbreak.
Workers prepares to bury culled chicken in Miyazaki, Japan, on Tuesday.