Not quite 34 months ago South Korea was ground zero for the explosive emergence of HPAI H5N8, which quickly spread - via migratory birds - across the nation. Up until that time, H5N8 was normally only seen in a low pathogenic form (although one HPAI H5N8 sample had been previously described in China).
Within a couple of months, the virus turned up in Japan, and the following fall in North America, Taiwan, and (briefly) in Western Europe. After a pause of about a year, H5N8 is back with a vengeance, and has all of Europe on alert.
Shortly after H5N8 appeared in Korea, a new, highly pathogenic avian virus called H5N6 appeared in Southern China, and Laos. Unlike H5N8, this virus was not only able to infect birds, it can infect and seriously sicken humans as well.
Over the past two years we know of 15 human infections in China and at least 9 deaths (see FluTrackers List). Most of those came between December of 2015 and May of this year.
H5N6 has been detected in Vietnam, Laos, China, and was found last year in migratory birds in Hong Kong. Last May, in EID Journal: Novel Reassortant H5N6 Viruses In Humans, Guangdong China, we looked at how the virus has continued to evolve, and reassort, since its emergence in 2014.
While H5N6 has spread broadly across China, until now, it has not been found outside of the Laos - Vietnam - China region. That is, until last Friday when we saw South Korea: MAFRA Reports H5N6 Detected In Wild Bird Feces.
After the devastating spread of H5N8 in 2014, South Korea's Ministry of Agriculture (MAFRA) is moving aggressively to track, and contain this new viral invader. First a brief news item from KBS News, then some excerpts form a long MAFRA statement issued today.
S. Korea on Alert to Prevent Spread of H5N6 AI
Write : 2016-11-15 17:47:54 Update
South Korea's poultry industry has been placed on high alert with the season's first appearance of a highly pathogenic avian influenza virus.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs confirmed Tuesday the H5N6 strain of bird flu was detected in excrement samples from wild birds collected near the Bonggang Stream in Cheonan City, South Chungcheong Province.
Since April 2014, that strain has been reported in China, Vietnam, Laos and Hong Kong. It has killed at least six people in China alone.
The government has placed travel restrictions on all poultry farms in the designated area, and mandated that birds within a ten-kilometer radius undergo special monitoring.
One of the obstacles we faced during the Korean MERS outbreak during the summer of 2015 was the `syntax challenged' translation software available to convert Korean to English. While we can usually get the gist from these machine translations, it can be a difficult read.
Today Korea's MAFRA published a very long report on the finding H5N6 last week, which can be read at this link. The samples were collected on October 28th, and H5N6 was confirmed on 11/11.
A few excerpts include:
Wild migratory bird pathogenic AI (H5N6) anti-epidemic measure promotion situation Registration be
2016-11- 33: 00:00
Agriculture and forestry livestock raising food department (minister: Kim Jae-soo) November 11th, the H5N6 style pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus detects from the wild birds minute arm which picked from South Chungcheong Province Cheonan Poongse subject matter steel bar thousand and * according to becoming in order to intercept the influx transversal domestic fowl pus disclosed that finishes an aggregate power to disease prevention.
* 10.28: Wildness migratory bird minute arm specimen picking (Konkuk University) -> 11.1∼4: After hatchery egg inoculation, for 3 days dying -> 11.9: Genetic analysis resultant H5 antigen detection -> 11.10: From Konkuk University as quarantine headquarters specimen sending -> 11.11: Quarantine headquarters testing result, H5N6 confirmation and pathogenic AI rapidly position
The detection same day, the domestic fowl farmhouse, the systematization business owner, for the warning inspiration and the information provision of the producer organizations 'migratory bird information message system' according to 'migratory bird attention' phase * to announce officially,
* Official announcement phase: Preparation (9.28) -> arrival (10.4) -> crowding -> migratory bird attention (11.11) -> cancellation
The H5N6 gene which part is analyzed so far the virus which the beginning of 2016 from the Hong Kong wild birds (large white heron) separates that be and more than 99% is showing a homology, most similar is presumed, currently to process a whole genetic analysis, will be completed to in this week
Finally, agri-food unit to prevent poultry farms influx of highly pathogenic AI virus by wild birds under the local government and producer groups to cooperate the livestock-related meetings and participating refrain of those to be thorough, including biosecurity disinfection farmers asked for.
❍ in addition, the farmers and the livestock-related facilities to install nets in the barn for access blocking of wild birds (maintenance), calcium oxide coating carried out, etc., and to strengthen disinfection, etc. for farmhouses entrant and transportation vehicles, to report promptly to the livestock quarantine institution found when suspected highly pathogenic AI also urges axis give (1588-4060, 1588-9060)
The detection of H5N6 in one environmental sample does not a crisis make, but provides an important head's up, and given the added risks posed by its ability to infect humans, South Korea is acting both aggressively and appropriately.