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

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By REUTERS in Tokyo

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.

KY­ODO NEWS AGENCY VIA REUTERS

Work­ers pre­pares to bury culled chicken in Miyazaki, Ja­pan, on Tues­day.

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