Sunday, December 24, 2006

South Korea reports fourth bird-flu outbreak in poultry in month

(Dec 22) SEOUL - A highly infectious form of bird flu was discovered in a duck 90 kilometres south of Seoul in the fourth farm in South Korea to be hit with avian influenza in a month, the Agriculture Ministry said Friday.

More tests were required to see whether the latest case at a duck farm in Asan represented an infection with the H5N1 strain of bird flu, which has proven dangerous to people, a worker in the ministry’s department of animal health said.

About 770,000 birds have already been culled in Iksan, south of Asan, after H5N1 infections were discovered at two poultry operations there. Another 365,000 birds were killed nearby in Gimje, also because of an H5N1 outbreak.

About 23,000 poultry are also to be killed in a 3-kilometre radius from the affected Asan farm. The Agriculture Ministry said bird flu also broke out on the duck farm in February 2004.

According to the UN’s World Health Organization, 258 people have been infected with H5N1 in 10 countries in Asia and Africa since late 2003. Of them, 154 have died.

No human cases of the disease have been reported in South Korea, but from 2003 to 2004, a bird-flu outbreak among poultry there led to the killing of 5.3 million birds in an effort to stop the spread of the disease, which is virulent among poultry.

It’s transmission to people is more difficult, and most human patients have contracted the disease through close contact with infected birds. Health experts fear, however, that the virus could mutate into a form that could spread from human to human.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Wildlife crews test for bird flu strains in Utah

(Dec 12) BRIGHAM CITY - A state biologist takes a fecal sample from a tundra swan and sends it to a lab.

It is a small but significant step to determine whether bird flu has reached Utah.

There is no sign that the deadly Asian strain has hit U.S. soil, but the possibility is keeping wildlife officials in Utah on the perch.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources said it has samples from 1,180 birds and hopes to have 120 more when the duck-hunting season ends Jan. 20.

The state is taking fecal samples from ducks shot at Farmington Bay and Migratory Bird Refuge. They include tundra swans, northern pintails, northern shovelers and green-winged teal.

There could be a chance that the birds nested on Alaska's northern coast and had contact with a migratory Asian bird that nested nearby in Russia.

''It's a long shot for one of our birds to actually come in contact with the birds from Asia, but, hey, who knows?'' said Spencer Atkinson, a state biologist.

At least 154 people have been killed by the H5N1 virus since it turned up in Asia in 2003. The disease has spread to Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Most human cases have been traced to people who work on large poultry farms.

Except for a steady stream of human cases in Indonesia, the current flu epicenter, the past year's worries about a catastrophic global outbreak largely

Some experts suspect poultry vaccination has complicated detection. Vaccination reduces the amount of virus circulating, but low levels of the virus may still be causing outbreaks - without the obvious signs of dying birds.

It might be seasonal in part. Bird flu tends to be most active in the colder months, as the virus survives longer at low temperatures.

''Many of us are holding our breath to see what happens in the winter,'' said Malik Peiris, a microbiology professor at Hong Kong University. ''H5N1 spread very rapidly last year,'' Peiris said. ''So the question is, was that a one-off incident?''

The virus could mutate into a pandemic strain, said Keiji Fukuda, coordinator of the World Health Organization's global influenza program, but it could also go the other direction, becoming less dangerous for humans. (

Monday, December 11, 2006

S.Korea says third bird flu case confirmed

(Dec 11) SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea's agriculture ministry said on Monday it had found a third case of highly pathogenic bird flu in North Cholla province south of Seoul.

Last month South Korea confirmed its first two outbreaks of the H5N1 strain in about three years, saying the virus had been found at two poultry farms close to each other in North Cholla province.

The third case was discovered at a quail farm in the same province about 170 km south from Seoul, some 18 km from the original outbreak, according to the ministry.

"The case has been confirmed as the H5N1 strain of avian influenza," the ministry said in a statement, adding thousands of birds at the farm had died over the past four days.

The fresh case emerged after South Korea had completed culling all 760,000 poultry near the two farms already discovered to have been infected with H5N1.

Between December 2003 and March 2004, about 400,000 poultry at South Korean farms were infected by bird flu.

During that outbreak, the country destroyed 5.3 million birds and subsequent testing in the United States indicated at least nine South Korean workers involved in the culling had been infected with the H5N1 virus, but none developed major illnesses.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Bird flu loss $2 billion

JAKARTA: The world's poultry industry suffered approximately $2 billions in losses due to the bird flu epidemic between September 2005 and September 2006, an official said on Saturday.

``The global poultry industry has suffered direct losses of $2 billions due to lower prices.

This is equal to 14 per cent of the total value of world trade,'' said National Avian Influenza Control Commission chairman Bayu Krisnamurthi, reported The Jakarta Post.

Use of bird flu vaccine considered

(TNA) - A committee of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives committee is reviewing the pros and cons of using bird flu vaccines to innoculate Thai poultry against possible contagion, and should recommend whether or not to use the vaccine approach by late January.

The ministry will soon decide whether or not to allow bird flu vaccine to immunise poultry against the H5N1 virus within two months, according to Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Thira Sutabutr.

Mr Thira said that he assigned Yukol Limlamthong, director-general of the Department of Livestock Development, as chairman of the vaccination review committee, to research and prepare guidelines on using the vaccine.

The committee will consider the implications, positive and negative, of using available avian influenza vaccine by analysing scientific research reports and case studies of vaccinations being applied in other countries.

It is expected that the committee report its findings by the end of January, he added. The committee will also recommend guidelines on how to use the vaccine safely and efficiently.

The ministry committee will also discuss alternative methods to combat avian flu--such as adopting closed farming systems and bio-security measures to contain the spread of the virus.

An effective bird flu vaccine has only recently been developed and improved, he said.

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) allowed any country severely hit by the outbreak to use the bird flu vaccine to contain the disease.

Although Thailand has succeeded, so far, in fighting the disease, the committee will also review negative effects of using the vaccine--as well as the possibility that mutation of the H5N1 virus before the decision to use a vaccine is made.

In winter, migrating birds from further north are heading south and the lower temperatures in Thailand provide suitable living conditions for the H5N1 virus.

As a result, anti-bird flu measures are needed to prevent any outbreaks, according to the ministry.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

$1.3 billion more needed for bird flu, U.N. says

(Reuters) WASHINGTON - As much as $1.3 billion more is needed to fight bird flu, with more than $500 million of that going to Africa, World Bank and U.N. experts said Tuesday.

This is on top of the $1.9 billion pledged at a World Bank conference in Beijing last January, said World Bank Economic Adviser Olga Jonas, who will present her official estimates to a meeting of bird flu experts that begins next Wednesday in Bamako, Mali.

“We foresaw only a very small amount that would be needed in Africa,” Jonas said in an interview.

But since January, H5N1 avian influenza has spread out of Asia, across Europe and into Africa. Now more than 50 countries have battled the virus, which mostly affects birds but which has infected 258 people and killed 153 since 2003.

Among them are some of the poorest countries in Africa — Uganda, Niger, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Djibouti, as well as Egypt.

U.N. bird flu coordinator Dr. David Nabarro said the money pledged worldwide in January was being spent rapidly but said much more needs to be done to prepare for a pandemic, or to try to prevent one.

Jonas said globally, between $980 million and $1.3 billion is needed over the next two to three years to fight bird flu. The money would go for everything from rubber gloves and disinfectants to cash compensation to people whose birds are culled if H5N1 is detected.

Some money has gone to African countries, but $566 million more is needed, she said, quoting figures prepared for the 4th International Conference on Avian Influenza, sponsored by the European Union, European Commission and the African Union.

Unforseen severity

Indonesia is now the nation worst hit by H5N1, with 30 of its 33 provinces affected. Out of 74 reported human cases of infection in Indonesia, 57 have died.

“In Indonesia, the problem is just very, very severe and the programs to deal with it are also going to require more resources than we foresaw,” Jonas said.

Not only does the virus threaten poultry — more than 200 million fowl have been slaughtered or died — but experts fear it could cause a human pandemic.

Just a few genetic mutations could make H5N1 spread easily from person to person, sparking a global epidemic that might kill millions and ruin economies.

Jonas said more than $720 million of the $1.9 billion pledged in January has been disbursed. Nabarro has been trying to keep tabs on it.

Doctor is 'quite scared'

“I am upbeat because I have seen fantastic work being done, but I remain personally quite scared because I have seen the way in which this virus is still knocking around and not going away,” Nabarro said.


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