South­east Asia, Sub­con­ti­nent fights huge bird flu epi­demic

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

China’s Xin­jiang re­gion has culled more than 55,000 chick­ens and other poul­try fol­low­ing an out­break of a highly vir­u­lent bird flu that has in­fected 16,000 birds, the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture said yesterday. The H5N6 strain of the virus was con­firmed in Yin­ing, a city of 500,000 peo­ple, and has killed 10,716 birds, the min­istry said. It is the fourth flu out­break among poul­try since Oc­to­ber and brings the to­tal cull since then to more than 170,000 birds. Flocks are par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble to avian flu dur­ing the win­ter months and spo­radic out­breaks are rel­a­tively com­mon. The culling comes amid fears about the spread of avian flu across Asia, with South Korea bat­tling its worst-ever out­break and Ja­pan and In­dia also killing flocks.

South Korea is cur­rently try­ing to con­tain the H5N6 strain, which has caused 10 hu­man deaths in China since April 2014. At least seven peo­ple in China have been in­fected this win­ter with the H7N9 bird flu strain and two have died. To bol­ster their de­fense against in­fec­tion, Chi­nese poul­try farm­ers have scram­bled to give their chick­ens more vi­ta­mins and vac­cines in re­cent weeks. Beijing has banned poul­try im­ports from more than 60 coun­tries and said any coun­tries with highly path­o­genic cases will au­to­mat­i­cally go onto that list. Re­gional au­thor­i­ties in three prov­inces have curbed live poul­try trad­ing in some ci­ties to pre­vent the spread of the dis­ease.

The last ma­jor bird flu out­break in China in 2013 killed 36 peo­ple and caused more than $6 bil­lion in losses for the agri­cul­ture sec­tor. In a state­ment on its web­site on Sun­day, the Chi­nese Cen­tre for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion warned that the is­sue war­rants greater at­ten­tion this year, be­cause the dis­ease is de­vel­op­ing ear­lier than in previous years, and cases are in­creas­ing more quickly in some dis­tricts. Del­e­ga­tions from Ja­pan, South Korea and China gath­ered in Beijing ear­lier this month for a sym­po­sium on pre­vent­ing and con­trol­ling bird flu and other dis­eases in East Asia, the Agri­cul­ture min­istry’s web­site showed.

Bird flu hits South Korea

The year of the rooster looks set for a gloomy start. Egg prices are soar­ing and New Year’s fes­ti­vals are being can­celed as South Korea fights its worst bird flu out­break in a decade. South Korea’s gov­ern­ment said yesterday that about 26 mil­lion head of poul­try will be culled by Wed­nes­day, in­clud­ing about one-third of the coun­try’s egg-lay­ing hens, af­ter the H5N6 strain of avian in­fluenza was found in farms and parks. The lat­est out­break, first re­ported on Nov 17, is the worst in South Korea among six since 2003.

The highly con­ta­gious in­fluenza has spread to all prov­inces in­clud­ing a ma­jor park in south of Seoul and a scenic wet­land area in the south. No hu­man cases have been re­ported. The bird flu and the sub­se­quent slaugh­ters have re­duced sup­plies: As of Fri­day, egg prices paid by whole­salers had al­most dou­bled from a year ear­lier while prices paid by con­sumers jumped 30 per­cent. The gov­ern­ment plans to sub­si­dize ship­ping fees and tem­po­rar­ily lift tar­iffs on im­ported eggs to ease short­ages. Of­fi­cials said the gov­ern­ment might buy eggs from over­seas if prices con­tinue to rise.

It all spells an in­aus­pi­cious start to the year of the rooster, or chicken, ac­cord­ing to the Asian zo­diac. One of the most pop­u­lar end-of-year ac­tiv­i­ties in South Korea is to climb a moun­tain or visit the seashore to watch the last sun­set of the year or the first sunrise of the New Year. Each year, hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple gather in the east­ern county of Ulju in the city of Ul­san to watch the sunrise from a sea­side park. That event will not be held this week­end, the county said, one of many fes­tiv­i­ties can­celled to min­i­mize the risk of the flu spread­ing.

Indian state or­ders poul­try cull

Mean­while, an east­ern Indian state or­dered the cull of more than 2,500 chick­ens and other poul­try af­ter four dead crows and three dead poul­try tested pos­i­tive for the highly path­o­genic H5N1 virus, of­fi­cials said yesterday. The bird flu virus was con­firmed at Keranga vil­lage, about 35 km from Bhubaneswar, the cap­i­tal of Odisha state, vet­eri­nary of­fi­cials said, days af­ter dozens of crows and chick­ens were found dead. More than 30,000 birds were culled in a sim­i­lar out­break in the re­gion in 2012.

“We have is­sued an ad­vi­sory to fol­low im­me­di­ate mea­sures to com­plete culling op­er­a­tions, sur­veil­lance and san­i­ti­za­tion in the in­fected area,” Com­mis­sioner-cumSec­re­tary of the state’s Fish­eries and An­i­mal Re­sources De­vel­op­ment De­part­ment Bish­nu­pada Sethi said. “Over 2,500 poul­try birds are being culled within one kilo­me­ter of the epi­cen­ter for con­trol and con­tain­ment of bird flu. It’s the first time in the cur­rent sea­son that this type of bird flu was de­tected in the state and in the same area.” The H5N1 strain is con­sid­ered as highly path­o­genic.

It can also trans­mit to an­i­mals such as pigs, horse, large cats, dogs and oc­ca­sion­ally hu­mans. China re­ported two fatal­i­ties from H7N9 bird flu last week, its first fatal­i­ties among this win­ter’s cases, stok­ing fears the virus could spread at a time when other Asian na­tions are bat­tling to con­trol out­breaks of the dis­eases. —Agen­cies

JA­PAN: This un­dated hand­out shows lo­cal of­fi­cials, wear­ing avian flu an­tivirus suits, us­ing car­bon­ated gas to kill chick­ens in Nankan town in Ku­mamoto pre­fec­ture. —AFP

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