South Korea culls 19 million poultry to control avian flu

Outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in Japan and South Korea in recent months have already resulted in the culling of almost 25 million poultry. With cases now confirmed in poultry in five states, the cost of these outbreaks are mounting in India. The disease has returned to Cambodia and Iraq, and there are new cases in Taiwan and Vietnam, but the situation has been resolved in the Philippines.

(sharafmaksumov | Bigstock)
(sharafmaksumov | Bigstock)

Asia is experiencing the worst avian influenza outbreaks in years, reported Japan Today this week.

From Japan to South Korea and India, there is no sign of the situation easing up. There are new outbreaks in three other Asian countries, and poultry markets in affected countries are in turmoil.

South Korea: More than 19 million birds culled

Efforts to control the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) have already resulted in the culling of 19.2 million head of poultry. Of this total, around 15 million are chickens.

According to Yonhap news agency, all poultry within three kilometers of a confirmed outbreak are culled under South Korea regulations. Since the country’s first cases linked to the H5N8 HPAI virus at the end of last November, outbreaks have been detected at 68 poultry farms.

Latest cases have been confirmed at an egg farm with 400,000 hens at Eumseong. Located in North Chungcheong province, this county is around 130 kilometers south of the capital, Seoul. The previous day, the virus was detected at Yongin — just south of the city — in Gyeonggi province.

As well as preventative culling, the authorities in South Korea impose a 30-day movement on poultry within 10 kilometers of a confirmed outbreak, reports the same source. There is an obligatory seven-day standstill for all those located in the affected province.

Rising poultry prices in South Korea; import tariffs suspended

With a diminishing domestic poultry population, costs of poultry meat and eggs in South Korea have risen sharply, reported Yonhap earlier this week.

Year-on-year increases in prices were recorded for duck meat (35%), eggs (27%), and chicken (11%).

To maintain supplies in the face of shortage, South Korea is set to suspend import duties on eggs and egg products until the end of June, according to the latest report from the same source .

While the agriculture ministry is still to finalize details, it is expected that the measure will allow tariff-free imports of 50,000 tons of fresh eggs as well as seven egg products. Current tariffs range from 8-30%, depending on the product.

South Korea’s latest HPAI outbreaks

Latest report from the agriculture ministry to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) reveals 15 outbreaks on farms over the period January 7-16.

Directly impacting almost 1.17 million birds, the affected premises were in seven provinces. Around half of the outbreaks were in egg-laying hens, most of which reported some level of increased mortality. Flock size ranged from 36,000 to 390,000 hens. Six more outbreaks were in ducks in flocks up to 23,000 birds. Among the duck flocks, the infection was detected as the result of surveillance prior to slaughter. Also affected over this period was a farm with 41,200 broiler chickens.

In addition to the outbreaks in domestic poultry, South Korea has registered 79 confirmed outbreaks in wild birds since the end of October last year. A further 16 cases are suspected.

Japan records largest HPAI outbreak so far

Last week, authorities in Japan culled the country’s largest flock to be affected by HPAI — 1.145 million chickens. Affected was a layer flock near Isumi city in Chiba, reported Japan Times. This was the second outbreak in this prefecture, which is in the east of Honshu island.

Following an outbreak on December 24 just three kilometers away, mortality at the farm spiked around 10 days ago. Investigations revealed the cause to be avian flu, and likely the highly pathogenic type.

Most recent official report to the OIE by Japan’s agriculture ministry was lodged at the start of January. Covering the period running from December 22 to January 1, this outlined four large HPAI outbreaks linked to the H5N8 virus variant. Among the affected farms was the earlier outbreak in Isumi, which involved 1.1 million laying hens.

With more than 1.4 million poultry directly involved in these four outbreaks, they bring the country’s total affected to 6.132 million poultry.

Including an outbreak at Satsuma in Kagoshima prefecture reported last week, the number of farm outbreaks in Japan since early November now exceeds 50. These include 36 primary outbreaks, according to the latest update from the agriculture ministry.

India: Avian flu spreads, costs mount

Further HPAI outbreaks in poultry have occurred in the southwestern state of Kerala and in Maharashtra in the west, reported Times of India earlier this week. Culling of poultry near to confirmed outbreaks was on-going.

The virus had by then been detected in domestic birds in five states — also in Haryana (in the north), Madhya Pradesh (in central India) and neighboring Chhattisgarh. Wild birds have tested positive for HPAI virus in 10 states, according to the ministry for animal husbandry.

According to this source, culling was underway of all poultry within one kilometer of the outbreak in the Balod district of Chhattisgarh.

Economic losses from the latest outbreaks in Indian poultry have already reached 30 billion rupees (INR; US$410 million), according to Hindustan Times.

This source also reports outbreaks in poultry in Gujarat. In the west of the country, this state is located to the north of Maharashtra. It also records outbreaks in seven districts of Maharashtra, and in the Allapuzha district of Kerala.

Over the past week, the ministry has registered with the OIE the first HPAI outbreaks in India since September of 2020. Overall, four outbreaks were confirmed in three states, and involving a total of more than 174,000 poultry.

In the first week of this month, presence of the H5N1 HPAI virus was detected among around 4,300 poultry in backyard flocks in Maharashtra state, and at a farm with around 1,000 birds in Madhya Pradesh. At two large farms with a total of almost 169,000 poultry in the same district of Haryana state, the birds tested positive for the H5N8 virus variant.

Last week, the ministry registered with the OIE five outbreaks of HPAI linked to the H5N8 virus at duck farms in Kerala. Fearing the danger of poultry products transmitting the infection to people, sales and prices had dropped sharply.

HPAI returns to Cambodia, Iraq

According to the agriculture ministry, the H5N1 HPAI virus was detected in a village in the western province of Battambang in the first week of January. In the OIE report, almost 2,000 birds in backyard flocks were involved. More than 1,800 of the birds died, and the rest have been destroyed.

HPAI was last detected in the country in April of 2019.

The Star reports that buying, selling, and transportation of poultry within three kilometers of the outbreak are suspended.

In Iraq, the first HPAI outbreak has been confirmed since May of last year.

According to the official report to the OIE, the H5N8 HPAI virus was detected last week at a farm in the central region of Salah Al-Deen. The majority of the 68,800 birds in the flock died, and the remaining 5,100 have been culled. Source of the infection is unknown.

Other HPAI developments in Asia: Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam

For the first time, the H5N8 HPAI virus has been detected in Hong Kong. According to the official report from the agriculture department to the OIE, samples of wild bird droppings from a nature reserve tested positive for the virus last week.

Taiwan’s Council of Agriculture has registered a further three outbreaks of HPAI linked to the H5N5 virus. Latest to be affected — during the last week of 2020 — were two flocks of meat ducks in Pingtung county, and around 1,000 meat geese in Yunlin. In all 10,141 poultry were involved in these outbreaks, including 293 that died. Remaining birds have been destroyed.

These outbreaks bring Taiwan’s total linked to this virus to 57 since September of 2019, when this new variant was first detected in the region.

Over the past week, the agriculture ministry of Vietnam have registered with the OIE 11 more HPAI outbreaks in poultry.

Since mid-December, poultry in five village flocks have tested positive for the H5N6 HPAI virus. Around 1,500 birds died, and 10,300 were destroyed in villages in the regions of South Central Coast, Northeast, and Red River Delta (in the north, and including Hanoi). These latest cases bring Vietnam’s total to 12 outbreaks involving almost 30,000 poultry since the virus returned in late August of 2020.

Meanwhile, the H5N1 virus variant was detected in six more village poultry flocks between September and December. All the affected birds — 8,700 in total — were in the south of the country in the Mekong Delta region. After a short absence, this virus has been involved in nine outbreaks over the past five months.

HPAI “resolved” in the Philippines

Veterinary authorities in the Philippines have declared to the OIE that the HPAI situation has been “resolved.” Two outbreaks linked to the H5N6 virus variant were registered on the island of Luzon in July and August. These involved an egg farm in Pampanga province, and a backyard flock in Rizal — a total of around 39,300 poultry. No further infections have been detected over the past 90 days.

This declaration from the Department of Agriculture followed a report showing no evidence of avian flu virus at the affected premises, reports Philippine News Agency. Agriculture Secretary William Dar praised the efforts of those whose fast actions stopped the spread of the disease to other areas.

View our continuing coverage of the global avian influenza situation.

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