China farm­ers bol­ster bird flu de­fenses amid Asia out­breaks

Ja­pan culling 122,000 more birds

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

Chi­nese chick­ens are be­ing fed more vi­ta­mins and vac­cines as jit­tery farm­ers ramp up henhouse ster­il­iza­tion in a bid to pro­tect flocks against a vir­u­lent strain of air­borne bird flu that has led to record culling in nearby South Korea. While Seoul has or­dered the gassing of 20 mil­lion birds since the first case of the H5N6 virus was re­ported on Nov 18, out­breaks in Ja­pan and three con­firmed cases in main­land China in the last two months have stoked fears of re­gional spread. Hong Kong yes­ter­day con­firmed its first hu­man bird flu in­fec­tion of the sea­son.

Fears of the virus’ spread have spooked farm­ers pre­par­ing for the year’s peak meat de­mand dur­ing Lu­nar New Year cel­e­bra­tions. The last ma­jor out­break in 2013 killed 36 peo­ple and caused some $6.5 bil­lion in losses to the agriculture sec­tor. “We are wor­ried,” said the man­ager of a sta­te­owned 100,000 bird farm in Shan­dong prov­ince 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, who de­clined to give his first name as he was not au­tho­rized to speak to me­dia. “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.

Im­ports banned

The mea­sures in­tro­duced at Tan’s farm echo those be­ing put in place else­where and draw on ex­pe­ri­ences gained dur­ing the dam­ag­ing 2013 out­break in China, the world’s no. 3 pro­ducer of broiler chick­ens and the sec­ond-big­gest poul­try con­sumer. In re­cent years, farm­ers have in­creased clean­ing regimes, an­i­mal de­ten­tion tech­niques, and built roofs to cover hen pens, among other steps. Of­fi­cial del­e­ga­tions from Ja­pan, South Korea and China gath­ered in Beijing last week for a sym­po­sium on pre­vent­ing and con­trol­ling bird flu and other dis­eases in East Asia, ac­cord­ing to the web­site of China’s min­istry of agriculture. China now has bans in place on poul­try im­ports from more than 60 coun­tries, in­clud­ing South Korea and Ja­pan.

The bird flu out­breaks in Ja­pan are the first in nearly two years. Ja­pan started a fresh cull of chick­ens last week­end af­ter a fifth out­break since the end of Novem­ber. More than 780,000 chick­ens and ducks have been culled in the coun­try since an out­break of H5N6 virus at a poul­try farm in Ao­mori pre­fec­ture on Ja­pan’s most pop­u­lous is­land of Hon­shu on Nov 28.

Ja­pan be­gan killing about 122,000 farm birds yes­ter­day. The highly vir­u­lent H5 strain was found in chick­ens at a farm in the town of Kawami­nami in south­west­ern Ja­pan’s Miyazaki pre­fec­ture, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment re­leased by the lo­cal gov­ern­ment. “We be­gan killing farm birds today at 3:00 am (1800 GMT, Mon­day) with 380 peo­ple” in­volved in­clud­ing the mil­i­tary, a lo­cal gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial told AFP. The mass cull is ex­pected to be com­pleted in 24 hours, the of­fi­cial said.

Author­i­ties have also banned the trans­port of poul­try and poul­try prod­ucts in ar­eas close to the af­fected farms, while ster­il­iz­ing main roads lead­ing to them. Just three days ago, north­ern Hokkaido be­gan culling about 280,000 farm birds. The lo­cal gov­ern­ment com­pleted the mass killing yes­ter­day morn­ing, go­ing over the 24-hour dead­line due to cold weather.

Last month, China added five na­tions the Nether­lands, Swe­den, Den­mark, Rus­sia and Aus­tria - to its list of banned sup­pli­ers of poul­try im­ports as con­cern grows about the spread of dis­ease. Parts of Europe and Is­rael have been hit by the H5N8 strain of the virus in re­cent weeks. At Beijing Huadu Yukou Poul­try In­dus­try Co Ltd, a ma­jor chicken breeder based in Pinggu, near the cap­i­tal, chief vet­eri­nary of­fi­cer Liu Changqing said dis­ease pre­ven­tion sys­tems have been ramped up and the firm be­lieves its birds will be pro­tected. “Bird flu is the num­ber one thing that farm­ers guard against. It spreads so quickly, it can bank­rupt you,” Liu warned. —Agen­cies

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