Birdflu outbreak in Korea contained

Drastic action which has included the culling of nearly 220,000 infected chickens, the vaccination of others and strict biosecurity measures, has successfully contained the recent outbreak of bird flu in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) had urged the country to take these measurers and says there is a need for continued surveillance on affected farms and elsewhere. These measures should ensure that no residual infection remains from the H7 strain, which is unrelated to the H5N1 bird flu virus that has claimed dozens of human lives in other parts of Asia over the last twelve months.

FAO consultant Les Sims, who travelled to the DPRK to advise veterinary authorities on bird flu control, says the virus appears to have been eliminated from the three infected farms by combining culling of around 218,000 infected chickens, vaccination of unaffected birds in unaffected poultry houses and strict biosecurity measures.

After North Korea requested UN help earlier this month the FAO sent three experts to the country to assist national authorities in diagnosis and disease management.

Mr. Sims says the DPRK has acted promptly and appropriately and has provided essential information in a timely manner.

Almost 140 million domestic birds have died or been culled over the past year in Southeast Asia in an effort to curb the spread of the disease which health authorities fear could kill tens of millions people worldwide in a worst-case scenario.

The H5N1 virus has already infected 90 people, 50 of them fatally, since the first human case linked to widespread poultry outbreaks in Viet Nam and Thailand was reported in January last year.

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) is concerned that continuing transmission of this strain to humans might give avian and human influenza viruses an opportunity to exchange genes, facilitating a pandemic. The so-called Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1920, unrelated to the H5N1 virus, is estimated to have killed between 20 million and 40 million people worldwide.

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