Three Asian countries battle H5N1 outbreaks

Jan 31, 2011 (CIDRAP News) – Animal health officials in Japan, South Korea, and Myanmar reported fresh outbreaks of the H5N1 avian influenza in poultry, according to media reports and reports to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

The virus hit two more farms in Japan's Miyazaki prefecture, pushing the number of recent poultry farm outbreaks in the prefecture to five, Kyodo News reported yesterday. Miyazaki 's latest outbreaks occurred near the towns of Kawaminami and Nobeoka and prompted the culling of 96,600 chickens.

In response to the recent outbreaks in wild birds and poultry, the first since April 2009, Japan's agriculture ministry on Jan 29 held an emergency meeting for prefectural officials, according to the Kyodo report. Agriculture Minister Michihiko Kano told officials that the virus is a threat to local economies, and he urged them to do more to make sure farms are complying with biosecurity rules.

The H5N1 outbreaks have recently led to cancellations of bird-related events at least 28 facilities such as zoos and aquariums in Japan, the newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun reported today. Authorities cancelled a marathon that was scheduled to be run through a wintering area for migratory cranes and in some instances have banned the feeding of swans and other birds.

In other developments, South Korean veterinary officials reported H5N1 outbreaks at 14 more locations between Jan 17 and 25, according to a report to the OIE. Five provinces were affected: Gyeongii, Northern Jeolla, Southern Jeolla, Northern Gyeongsang, and Southern Chungcheong. Most of the outbreaks occurred at layer chicken and duck farms, but the virus also hit a quail farm and a pheasant farm.

Nearly 11,000 birds died from the disease, and about 281,700 were culled to control its spread. Poultry within 500 meters of the infected farms were also destroyed. Authorities have disinfected the farms and have intensified surveillance in a 10-kilometer radius around the farms where outbreaks occurred.

The virus reappeared in South Korean poultry in November 2010, and since then the country has reported several outbreaks. It is also battling a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in cattle.

Elsewhere, Myanmar reported the H5N1 virus at six more locations in the Sittwe district of Rakhine state, the area on the country's west coast where the virus recently reemerged in mid January after a nearly year-long hiatus, according to a Jan 28 OIE report. All of the sites are within 1kilometer of a recently infected site. All of the outbreaks, which started between Jan 18 and 23, involved layer poultry operations, with ducks and market poultry affected at some of the sites. Nearly 53,500 birds were culled to slow the spread of the virus.

In Thailand, a suspected H5N1 outbreak in Suphan Buri province has sparked an advisory from health officials to take precautions when coming in contact with poultry, according to a Jan 30 report from the country's national news bureau. Tests are under way on 100 chickens that died mysteriously. Jurin Laksanawisut, Thailand's public health minister, said there were no reports of any human illnesses.

The country has not reported an H 5N1 outbreak since 2006,according to the report.

See also:

Jan 30 Kyodo News story

Jan 31 Yomiuri Shimbun story

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