Thursday, April 26, 2018

South Korea Lowers Bird Flu Alert Status To `Caution'


As in Europe, Japan and South Korea saw the arrival of a reassorted HPAI H5N6 virus in place of the HPAI H5N8 virus which had dominated the previous three winters.  And like Europe, they saw a much less intense bird flu season than the the winter of 2016-17.
Part of this success - at least in South Korea - was likely due to the enhanced biosecurity put in place last fall in order to prevent outbreaks during their hosting of the XXIII Olympic Winter Games last February. 
But part of it seems due to HPAI H5N6 not being quite as robust of a threat as was H5N8.  That could change over time, of course. 

After a month without an outbreak in commercial poultry, we learn from this Yonhap report that MAFRA has lowered the alert level from `Serious' to `Caution'.
S. Korea lowers bird flu alert status
By Yonhap
Published : Apr 26, 2018 - 11:20
South Korea has downgraded its bird flu alert status and lifted a movement ban on local poultry farms as no additional cases have been reported in over a month, the agriculture ministry said Thursday.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs said it lowered the avian influenza alert status from "serious" to "caution" and released a standstill order on farms in 20 regions.

South Korea strengthened bird flu quarantine measures to prevent further spread of the animal disease since the first outbreak at a duck farm in North Jeolla Province in November. Since then, a total of 22 cases broke out up until March 17 and 6.54 million poultry were culled, according to the ministry.
Given that there were roughly 300 outbreaks reported over the winter of 2016-17, this has been a much milder year. 

In year's past, South Korea assumed that avian flu was only a fall/winter threat, and stopped - or at least greatly curtailed - their monitoring programs for the summer.   
After persistent outbreaks in June of last year, South Korea announced their Move To Year-Round AI Prevention, and so while reduced, the threat of further outbreaks is not eliminated.

As we've seen in the past, often very big `bird flu years' are followed by one or more less severe seasons.  Sometimes this happens globally (see chart below), and sometimes it is a regional phenomenon.

All of which means, while this year's slowdown in avian flu activity around the world has been welcome, it isn't guaranteed to last.

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