November 26, 2006: It’s confirmed! The South Korean Government has announced the outbreak of the virulent H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus.
With the Agriculture Ministry in that country confirming the outbreak, as many as 236,000 poultry are being lined up for slaughter. Reports that suspected bird flu had killed at least 6,000 chickens at a farm that lies on a path taken by migratory birds in the south-west of South Korea led to investigations and the H5N1 strain was confirmed.
The ministry immediately ordered the culling of 236,000 poultry within a 500-metre radius of the farm in North Cholla province about 170km from Seoul, the South Korean capital. Quarantine authorities also banned the shipment of more than five million poultry from 221 farms within a 10km radius of the farm.
Statistics reveal that between December 2003 and March 2004, about 400,000 poultry at South Korean farms were infected by bird flu. This outbreak had cost the nation dear with 5.3 million birds being culled and about 1.5 trillion won ($1.6 billion) spent on preventing the disease from spreading.
To make things worse, at least nine South Korean workers involved in the culling operations were diagnosed as infected with the H5N1 virus. However, none developed major illnesses.
Reports say that the World Organisation for Animal Health has confirmed outbreaks in around 50 countries since 2003. Meanwhile, North Korea had an outbreak at poultry farms near the capital Pyongyang in February 2005, which led it to cull more than 200,000 chickens and vaccinate 1.1 million poultry.
A World Health Organisation report said that there had been 258 cases of human infection of the H5N1 strain since 2003, killing 153 people.
BY OUR PHARMA CORRESPONDENT