H5N8 strikes again in South Korea, Europe

Though highly pathogenic H5N8 avian flu outbreaks in most parts of the world continue to decline overall, activity continues to smolder, with another outbreak reported in South Korean poultry and two European countries—Belgium and the United Kingdom—reporting new detections.

Tracking bird shipments in Korea

South Korea's outbreak occurred in backyard birds on the island of Jeju in the south, Reuters reported today, citing the country's agriculture ministry. Over the winter South Korea's poultry sector was hit hard by H5N8 and H5N6 outbreaks, and the new event is the first since April.

According to agriculture ministry statements over the past few days translated and posted by Avian Flu Diary (AFD), an infectious disease news message board, the birds had been bought from a farm in Gunsan in North Jeolla province. A statement from Jun 3 also said birds in Busan, South Korea's second-largest city, tested positive for an H5 virus after a farmer received poultry from the Gunsan location.

Infected birds also turned up in the cities of Paju in the southeast and Yangsan in the northwest, the reports said.

The developments prompted officials to raise the avian flu alert to its highest level, effective tomorrow, a move that comes roughly a week after the country reduced the alert level to its lowest category.

UK outbreak involves small flock

In other H5N8 developments poultry, the UK Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) on Jun 3 announced that tests have confirmed H5N8 in a small flock of chickens and geese near the town of Diss in South Norfolk district in southeastern England.

The flock contains about 35 birds, and the virus killed a number of them. The remaining ones are slated for culling.

Authorities have placed a 3-kilometer (km) protection zone around the property and are investigating the source of the virus.

The strain has been detected in UK poultry and wild birds since December. Prevention zones have been lifted for most of England, but a 10-km surveillance is still in place for two farms in Lancashire district. A ban on poultry gatherings has been lifted for most of England, except for certain areas. Most egg producers have been cleared to keep their birds outside, except in the current protection zones, where birds must at least be separated from wild birds.

H5N8 in Belgium

Meanwhile, Belgian officials on Jun 2 announced an H5N8 outbreak involving the family of birds that includes pheasants and quail. The outbreak began on May 22 in the city of Wellin in Luxumbourg province in the south, according to a report to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

The virus killed four birds, and authorities destroyed seven others to curb the spread of the virus.

According to Belgium's food safety agency, the country hasn't had a highly pathogenic avian flu outbreak in poultry since 2003.

See also:

Jun 3 AFD post

Jun 4 AFD post

Jun 5 AFD post

Jun 3 DEFRA statement

Jun 2 OIE report on H5N8 in Belgium

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