Credit U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
South Korea, which was the first nation to recognize the emergence of HPAI H5N8 in mid-January of 2014, has already had to deal with two major winter outbreaks of avian influenza in wild, migratory, and domesticated birds, resulting in the culling of millions of ducks and chickens.
After a brief lull over the summer, we began to see reports of fresh outbreaks starting about 5 weeks ago (see MAFRA: South Korea On Bird Flu Alert).
While all of the activity this fall has been limited to the southwestern part of their country, today we are hearing of their 9th outbreak, this time at a duck farm in Naju, in South Jeolla Province. The subtype is not expressly stated, but H5N8 has been the predominant bird flu threat in Korea for the past two years.
SEOUL, Oct. 26 (Yonhap) -- South Korea confirmed a new case of bird flu on Monday, bringing the total to nine since the middle of September.
The Ministry for Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs said ducks at a poultry farm in Naju, 355 kilometers south of Seoul, tested positive for the virulent strain of avian influenza (AI).
All 15,600 ducks were culled as of Sunday as a precautionary measure, after some birds showed signs of being sick before they were to be shipped out last week, it said.
The ministry said the farm has been under quarantine to prevent the virulent virus from spreading.
"As of today, 112,031 birds have been culled," a government official said.
It isn’t at all clear whether this recent spate H5N8 outbreaks has been spread by wild or migratory birds – which are known to carry the AI virus - or via human activities such as the movement of poultry, equipment and personnel between farms. Both have played a role in the spread of bird flu viruses in the past.
That said, it appears that the annual migration of hooded cranes – which have been found to carry both H5N1 and H5N8 viruses (see Japan: H5N8 Detected In Izumi Crane) – has begun in earnest for the fall.
Overnight the EEAFP (East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership) reported the arrival in South Korea of 4,500 these threatened birds (est. global pop. 11,600) which spend their summers in south-central and south-eastern Siberia, and overwinter primarily in Korea, parts of Eastern China, and (primarily) Izumi, southern Japan.
You can read the report (including maps, and pictures) at:
Back in 2011, when the virus of greatest concern was H5N1, we looked at the limited choices conservationists have when dealing with avian flu in these rare, and endangered, birds (see Japan’s Bird Flu Dilemma).
Although the timing varies each year, it was during the first half of November last year when H5N8 was first detected in European poultry (first in Germany, later in the Netherlands & UK) and in Japan: H5N8 In Migratory Bird Droppings.
Two weeks later, it showed up in British Columbia - and by mid-December – the United States.
While glorious news for bird watchers, the arrival of hooded cranes in Korea (and soon, to Japan as well) is a sign that the fall bird migration in the East Asian – Australasian Flyway is well underway.
A signal that poultry operations across the Northern Hemisphere need to be double-checking their biosecurity measure in anticipation of bird flu’s return.