South Korea's MAFRA (Ministry of Agriculture) website continues to light up with new reports of either suspected, or verified, HPAI outbreaks across the country with KBS World Radio News reporting this morning the No. of AI-Hit Farms Rises to 25.
This latest surge started less than week ago - after going two months without an outbreak - and is believed to have started at a farm in Gunsun which sold infected poultry to other regions of the country.Last winter South Korea lost more than 30 million birds due to the spread of H5N6 and H5N8, and spent millions of dollars culling poultry, disinfecting premises, and paying compensation to poultry farmers.
On top of the economic losses, and potential public health threat, this outbreak also represents a serious challenge to newly elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who has called for more effective solutions to the bird flu threat.Political headlines in the (English language) Korean press overnight include:
Moon rebukes officials for ‘perfunctory’ reports on bird flu
President rejects bird flu measures as formality, urges fundamental solution
Gov't works on all out quarantine efforts against Avian Influenza
Part of the plan to reduce the spread of AI is the following announcement from MAFRA, halting the sale of live poultry in traditional markets across the country.
Prohibition of circulation of live chicken in traditional market
Press release (Yonhap News, etc., Oct. 6, 2006) □ Government to ban the distribution of live chicken in traditional market to prevent AI
Agriculture, Forestry and Livestock Foods Explained □ Of the 43 million native chickens, 65% (28 million) are slaughtered and 35% (15 million) of live chickens are slaughtered in traditional markets.
○ Chickens (including ducks) should be slaughtered at licensed slaughterhouses like small pigs, except when the owner cooks them directly to the consumer (self-cooked and sold) , A small number of domestic livestock traders are in circulation without trading records, and some businesses are slaughtered in an unsanitary manner, and it is necessary to improve them because of the weakness of AI protection management due to the public health and the keeping of live chickens Judged
□ However, due to the economic damage of small businesses that deal with chickens in traditional markets, we have prepared plans based on the results of the research service (Apr. ~ Jul.), So that we can arrange related consultation, related industries, local governments, consumer organizations, poultry industry It is planned to pursue through consultation and preparation with institutional organizations.
○ In the preparation process, we plan to support the local government such as living stability and job conversion of small farmers handling live chickens, and plan to implement them step by step through social consensus as necessary to change the diet of the people.
□ As a reference, we will strengthen the management of livestock traders who supply live chicken to traditional markets, and the management of live chicken storage facilities, as it will take a considerable amount of time to settle the ban on the distribution of live chicken.
As we've seen in Egypt, Indonesia, and China . . . once HPAI becomes well entrenched in both wild and domesticated birds, it can be extremely difficult to fully eradicate it.
While traditional live poultry markets are very popular in Asia, they have been shown (again, and again) to not only spread avian flu viruses, but to contribute to their rapid evolution (see Emerg. Microbes: Dynamics Of Transmission Of H5N1 & H9N2 In Live Bird Markets - Bangladesh).Moving away from live poultry markets won't solve the existing bird flu problem, but it might slow down the emergence of new, more dangerous strains. Unfortunately, few countries in Asia appear to have the political will to close these markets - and to keep them closed.
Here's hoping South Korea will succeed where others have failed.