Up until 48 hours ago South Korea had been enjoying a two month respite from avian flu, with no outbreaks reported since last April. So much so, that a little over a week ago the Ministry of Agriculture (MAFRA) reduced the nation to the lowest alert level, and declared their winter special surveillance program over.
On Saturday, in South Korea Raises Alert Over New Detection Of Avian H5, MAFRA raised the alarm when several birds died suddenly on Jeju island. Yesterday, we learned that those birds had been purchased from a farm in Gunsan, and that birds in Busan had also tested positive for H5.Today the extent of this outbreak is just starting to reveal itself, with infected birds (shipped from the farm in Gunsan) turning up in Paju and Yangsan (see map above), prompting authorities to announce new steps this morning (see Reuters South Korea to raise bird flu alert to maximum from June 6).
Although Korea has faced many avian flu outbreaks in the past (including 15 million birds lost in 2014 due to H5N8), they'd never felt the need to raise their bird flu alert beyond the second highest (border) level until last December, for HPAI H5N6.
Their four-phased alert system runs from Interest -> attention -> border -> serious/severe phase.Yesterday they raised their alert to the second highest level (Border /Boundery). Tomorrow, for only the second time, they will raise it to serious/severe.
Part of the reason is that they desperately want to get ahead of this outbreak, before it can spread further. But also, they seem a bit unnerved by this unusual summertime appearance, since HPAI H5N8 has been primarily a winter season threat.
Concerns that are expressed in the following Korean Times Editorial.
Revived bird flu fears
Updated : 2017-06-05 18:39
Highly contagious avian influenza is again spreading nationwide. The virus is believed to have originated from a farm in Gunsan, North Jeolla Province, and quarantine officials warned that bird flu could hit at least six cities and provinces across the country.
The latest outbreaks are the first since early April. The last bird flu epidemic that began to sweep the country in November last year resulted in the culling of a record 37 million poultry, with estimated damages reaching 1 trillion won.
It is rare for the virus to be found in early summer because it cannot survive in high temperatures and humidity. So there are growing concerns that the virus may have mutated and thus could occur at all times regardless of the season.
(Continue . . . )
MAFRA published a long, detailed, announcement on the investigation today - but as I've mentioned before, machine translations of Korean text tends to produce a mangled, syntax challenged output - so I'll spare my readers.
What is readily apparent, however, is that infected birds may have been shipped to, and subsequently sold from, a large number of locations around the country, and that this outbreak has the potential to blow up very fast.