H5N1 strikes poultry in South Korea, Russia

Apr 14, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – Animal health officials in South Korea yesterday said an H5N1 avian influenza outbreak was confirmed at a fourth farm, amid reports of several more suspected outbreaks, a day after Russia's agriculture ministry said the virus had struck birds in the far eastern part of the country.

Kim Chang-sup, an agriculture ministry official, said government tests confirmed an H5N1 outbreak at a chicken farm in Yeongam, about 236 miles southwest of Seoul, according to an Apr 12 report from the Associated Press. Yeongam is a county in South Jeolla province, which borders North Jeolla province, where recent outbreaks have been reported at farms in Gimje and Jeongeup.

Kim said birds from six other suspected outbreaks are being tested for the H5N1 virus. However, Xinhua, China's state news agency, reported yesterday that South Korean officials said 29 suspected or confirmed H5N1 outbreaks have been reported since the virus reemerged in late March after a year's lapse.

Ryu Chul-hyuk, a South Jeolla provincial official, told the AP that authorities have culled 470,000 chickens and ducks at 20 farms within 1.8 miles of the latest confirmed outbreak.

Experts in South Korea have noted some differences in the pattern of the country's recent H5N1 outbreaks, the Korea Times, an English-language newspaper, reported today. Past outbreaks occurred during cooler months, whereas the most recent outbreaks have surfaced during warmer weather. Also, the fresh outbreaks have hit ducks, whereas previous outbreaks only involved chickens, according to the Times report.

South Korea's food and agriculture ministry, however, appeared to downplay the developments and said warmer weather would kill off the virus, the Times report said. The ministry will release an interim report on the H5N1 outbreaks on Apr 16 or 17, according to the Times.

Elsewhere, agriculture officials in Russia recently confirmed an H5N1 outbreak in chickens at a village in the far eastern region of Primorye, according to an Apr 12 report from Agence France-Presse. The outbreak marks the first recurrence of the disease in Russia since December 2007, when the virus hit backyard poultry in the Rostov region in western Russia, according to past reports from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

In a report filed with the OIE on Apr 11, Russian officials said the virus struck 21 unvaccinated chickens and 7 guinea fowl. The remaining 14 birds, which included 6 ducks, were destroyed. Officials reported that the source of the virus was probably "hunted wild ducks and geese."

See also:

OIE reports on 2008 South Korean and Russian H5N1 outbreaks

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