Seoul — South Korea confirmed on Saturday a new case of avian influenza, an infection caused by avian influenza Type A viruses that can infect humans in rare cases. Agriculture officials from the country are currently culling thousands of birds in order to prevent the massive transmission of the deadly virus that can kill chickens, ducks and turkeys.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, reported that the outbreak was found at a poultry farm in Incheon City, which is the third most populous city in South Korea after Seoul and Busan, as reported by Yonhap News Agency. Nonetheless, the situation is already being controlled by health authorities.

The bird flu discovery comes amid ongoing concerns about food safety in South Korea, where an outbreak of foot and mouth disease was discovered in pigs in January. Credit:

Ministry officials said that all ducks from the farm (10,900), were culled as a preventive measure. Moreover, the farm has been quarantined, to prevent a massive spreading of the contagious virus that can sicken and even kill certain domesticated species, as explained by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Authorities have already installed disease control posts in the affected location and are spraying bactericidal substances on vehicles that enter and leave the area. Also, the Ministry set up a 24-hour emergency monitoring system to rigorously control the situation until it is determined that there is no risk of avian influenza virus spreading, said the Korean Times on Monday.

“Outbreaks of some avian influenza viruses among poultry have been associated with illness and death in humans in Asia, Africa, Europe, the Pacific, and the Near East. While very rare, avian influenza A viruses have also caused illness in humans in North America” said the CDC in a public statement.

The same journal added that nearby areas such as the North Chungcheong Province have also taken preventive security measures and have established control posts. On the other hand, Jeju Island has prohibited the entry of birds, poultry meat and eggs, produced or processed in Incheon City.

Since November 2015, South Korea had not reported any new cases of avian influenza (AI). On the same month, the country suspended imports of French poultry and live birds, after France reported a new outbreak of the virus.  From January to October, South Korea imported 1 ton of duck meat, 13 tons of foie gras, 844,000 chickens and 41,000 ducks, from the country, as reported by Yonhap News agency.

Avian Influenza A viruses have worldwide impact: last year 27 countries confirmed outbreaks

It seems that avian influenza is a worldwide problem for poultry producers and countries. Last year, 27 countries in Asia, Europe, North America, Africa and the Middle East confirmed outbreaks in several farms.

In order to prevent future outbreaks of avian influenza and other animal diseases, South Korea’s government has been conducting quarantine inspections all over the country. The ministry said on February that it was disinfecting livestock farms and sterilizing passenger cars and farming trucks.

The United States has strict controls to prevent avian influenza outbreaks. According to the CDC, it collaborates alongside the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the World Health Organization, the World Health Organization for Animal Health and the Food Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, to carry out routine surveillance to monitor the avian influenza viruses and their impact.

“Although avian influenza A viruses usually do not infect humans, rare cases of human infection with these viruses have been reported. Infected birds shed avian influenza virus in their saliva, mucous and feces.” said the CDC. 

Source: Yonhap News Agency