South Korea is moving to stem future cases of bird flu as foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks have been largely put under control, the government said Sunday.
The farm ministry said it currently maintains poultry movement restrictions in 14 rural cities and counties across the country after quarantine authorities had to cull 6.27 million birds on 269 farms since Dec. 29, when the first case of bird flu was reported.
The ministry said such restrictions are needed because there have been steady reports of bird flu outbreaks, with the last case taking place on Thursday at a chicken farm in Yeongcheon, 344 kilometers southeast of Seoul.
The ministry said another chicken farm in the same county that raised 900 birds is being checked for the virulent strain of the avian influenza that can be transmitted to humans. There have been a total of 100 cases checked by authorities in the past three months, with 51 turning out positive for the H5N1 strain.
“Most of the outbreaks are taking place where there are large numbers of migratory birds nearby that spend the winter months in South Korea,” a ministry official said.
Frontline quarantine officials have ordered poultry farmers to take all possible precautions to keep their chickens and ducks from coming into contact with wild birds that could spread the bird flu virus, he said.
The ministry, meanwhile, said FMD outbreaks seem to have come under control, with the last case being reported on Feb. 25.
It said movement restrictions on livestock have been lifted nationwide with the exception of two counties in North Chungcheong Province in the country’s interior.
It added that no livestock have been culled since Wednesday since no new cases have been reported following nationwide vaccinations that began on Dec. 25.
Since Nov. 29, when the first FMD case was confirmed, the government has slaughtered just under 3.48 million pigs, cattle, goats and deer at a cost of over 3 trillion won ($2.7 billion). The latest set of outbreaks is the severest in the country’s history, far exceeding losses caused when the highly contagious animal disease hit the country in 2000, 2002 and two times in early 2010.
Last week, Seoul lowered its FMD alert level one notch from “red” to “orange” with the central emergency response headquarters under the Ministry of Public Administration and Security to be disbanded in the near future.