South Korea’s agriculture minister called for all-out efforts to prevent further outbreaks of avian influenza Tuesday, following a series of new suspected cases in areas close to the capital.
“The government has so far put its utmost efforts into preventing the spread of AI and eradicating the animal disease at an early date,” Lee Dong-phil, minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs, said at a press briefing.
Lee, however, noted that government efforts alone may not be enough. “We may be able to eradicate AI sooner if we all work together,” he said.
The minister asked poultry farm owners to continue their quarantine efforts and continue sterilizing their facilities to prevent any inflow of AI virus into their farms.
He also asked that people avoid visiting areas, such as reservoirs, that serve as homes for migratory birds, especially during the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday that begins Thursday.
The government has pointed to migratory birds as the original source of bird flu after the virulent H5N8 strain of bird flu was identified in a group of wild ducks found dead on Jan. 17 at a reservoir near the duck farm that first reported AI.
The highly pathogenic strain of bird flu has since been identified in 13 other cases involving wild birds, according to Deputy Agriculture Minister Lee Joon-won.
The minister’s statement came one day after the government placed a 12-hour lockdown on all poultry farms in three provinces, creating what it called a window of opportunity to simultaneously sterilize all infection sources, including temporary homes for migratory birds.
Despite such efforts, three new suspected cases have been reported since Monday, bringing the total number of suspected cases to 20.
Poultry at farms in Imsil, North Jeolla Province; Yeongam, South Jeolla Province; and Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, were showing symptoms of the disease.
Some 1.5 million birds have been culled since the first outbreak was reported on Jan. 16. More than 530,000 additional poultry, mostly ducks and chickens, are to be slaughtered, the ministry said.
The ministry said that unlike some strains of bird flu found in Vietnam and China, the N5N8 strain poses no threat to humans, and no human infections have been reported.
By Suk Gee-hyun and news reports