Animal health officials in South Korea recently confirmed highly pathogenic H5N6 avian flu in two domestic cats that died in Gyeonggi province, as the H5N8 virus continued to fuel outbreaks in Europe, including the first detection in Ireland.
Cat findings trigger human monitoring
According to English-language South Korean media reports, the dead cats were found near Christmas near a chicken farm that experienced an outbreak in late November. Tests confirmed H5N6 on Dec 31, and authorities said the cats probably had eaten infected birds, The Korea Herald reported on Jan 1.
The cat infections are the first known from H5N6, though in the past cats have been susceptible to other H5 viruses, including H5N1.
The government is monitoring 12 people who had contact with the cats at a home in Pocheon City, KBS World Radio reported yesterday. The people have been given antiviral medications.
Veterinary authorities are also testing two dogs that were raised with the cats, though tests are negative so far, the report said. Officials also noted that 1,830 dogs, pigs, and cats at outbreak-affected farms have tested negative.
Today South Korea's agriculture ministry announced that it will catch and test 10 stray cats from each of the seven regions hit by the H5N6 virus, The Korea Times reported.
Recent avian flu outbreaks have so far led to the culling of 30 million chickens in South Korea, the Times report said. The country is also battling H5N8 at some poultry farms.
H5N8 in Ireland; more outbreaks in Wales, France
Ireland's agriculture department on Dec 30 announced that H5N8 had been confirmed in a sick wild duck in in County Wexford, located in the southeastern part of the country.
The Department of Agriculture, Food, and Marine (DAFM) said in a statement that the widgeon was found alive in Wexford Town but was unable to fly.
"The finding is not unexpected given the detection of highly pathogenic H5N8 in wild birds in Great Britain in the last two weeks, and comes one week after the Minister introduced regulations under the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 requiring the compulsory housing of poultry as a result of the increased threat," the DAFM said.
Further testing is under way to determine if the virus is the same highly pathogenic strain implicated in outbreaks elsewhere in the United Kingdom and on the European mainland.
Elsewhere in Europe:
- Wales today announced a second H5N8 detection, this time in backyard birds in the same county where officials found the virus for the first time in a wild duck, according to a government statement today. In the latest outbreak, the virus struck chickens and ducks at a location in Pontyberem in Carmarthenshire. The birds were culled as soon as the virus was suspected.
- Local veterinary officials in France yesterday reported H5N8 outbreaks in a newly affected department, Deux-Sevres in the west central part of the country, Reuters reported. Most of the outbreaks this year, as well as last season, affected poultry in southwestern France. Local officials said the new outbreaks involved backyard birds and a poultry farm.
Jan 1 Korea Herald story
Jan 2 KBS World Radio story
Jan 3 Korea Times story
Dec 30 DAFM statement