South Korea amends avian flu culling rules

With highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) leading to heavy losses of birds and sky-high prices for meat and eggs in the shops, South Korea is easing its rules on the preventative culling of poultry for a short period.

Avian Flu Illustration

Authorities in South Korea are easing the regulations on the culling of poultry near to highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreaks. According to Yonhap, this measure is only temporary.

So far this winter, around 26 million poultry have been destroyed in the country. These have been located within three kilometers of a confirmed outbreak.

With losses of birds and food supply chain disruptions mounting, the agriculture ministry has amended the culling protocol to cover birds within one kilometer of an infected premises. This easing will apply for the next two weeks only.

According to a previous report from the same news agency, the number of confirmed outbreaks linked to the H5N8 HPAI virus in South Korea has reached 95.

The latest infections were at two egg farms in Icheon. Located in Gyeonggi province, the city region is around 80 kilometers from the capital, Seoul.

Japan’s HPAI cull exceeds seven million birds

In Japan, the number of poultry culled in relation to the HPAI outbreak series has now passed the seven-million mark.

According to Nippon, the agriculture ministry puts the cull total at 7.1 million birds. This makes the current season the worst for avian flu-related losses. In 2005-2006, almost six million poultry were culled in Japan.

Since the H5N8 HPAI virus was first detected in November of last year, chickens in the west of the country have been most affected.

Of the total losses, 2.31 million poultry have been directly impacted in Chiba, which is the nation’s second most important prefecture for egg production. Other regions with significant losses are Kagawa (1.72 million), Ibaraki (840,000), and Miyazaki and Okayama (each with 650,000 birds).

Ibaraki is the prefecture producing the most eggs, and the center of broiler production is Miyazaki, reports Nippon. With the spread of the infection in key producing areas, domestic supplies of poultry meat and eggs are likely to be severely impacted.

The source of the virus in Japan is thought to be migratory wild birds, while its spread is attributed to the activities of rodents and other wildlife.

At the end of last week, ANI News reported that HPAI had been found at another farm in Chiba prefecture. Around 356,000 poultry were scheduled for culling at this premises — the 10th in the prefecture to be confirmed with the disease.

Citing data from the agriculture ministry, this source puts the Japanese avian flu-related cull of poultry so far this season at 9.3 million birds. This total includes 4.6 million chickens in Chiba alone. At least one outbreak has been confirmed in 16 prefectures. All four of the country’s largest islands have confirmed outbreaks. Most recent was the northernmost island of Hokkaido, where the first outbreak was confirmed in late January.

As of February 15, the agriculture ministry puts the number of primary HPAI outbreaks in Japan so far this winter at 50.

Avian flu continues to spread in India

While no official reports on HPAI outbreaks have been sent by the authorities in India to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) since the start of this month, local media are reporting new cases.

At the end of last week, Times of India recorded that poultry owners in one state alone are suffering economic losses estimated at 2.5 billion rupees (INR; US$34 million). These have accrued in Telegana in as little as one month. And not a single case of HPAI has been detected in this central-southern state.

Losses for Telegana's poultry farmers are attributed to a slump in demand as people fear for their own health from contact with infected birds, poultry meat and eggs. One said that retailers are securing their own margins, and not passing on lower prices to consumers.

Other states — including Maharashtra and Rajasthan — have suffered directly from a number of outbreaks. Local experts put the total losses for the whole of India already at around INR34 billion.

Neighboring Telegana to the north and west is the state of Maharashtra. Here, the HPAI situation is worse than in 2006, according to Mumbai Mirror.

Head of the state animal husbandry department recorded that more than 43,600 poultry have died from the disease, and around 612,000 more have been culled. Furthermore, 192,000 eggs have been destroyed.

Compared to the 2006 outbreak series, there are many more epicenters — 52 in 22 districts — and both the H5N1 and H5N8 virus variants have been detected.

To allay the fears of local people, he stressed that there have been no reports of human transmission of the infection. Furthermore, he added, poultry meat and eggs are safe to eat as long as they are properly cooked.

On India’s west coast, 17,000 poultry are scheduled for culling in the state of Gujarat, according to Indian Express. This follows confirmation of the presence of the H5N1 HPAI virus variant at the National Poultry Farm in the district of Tapi.

Located in the town of Uchhal, the farm is close to the border with the district of Navapur. In the previous week, 22 HPAI outbreaks were confirmed on farms in Navapur. As a result, almost 580,000 poultry were culled, and 2.5 million eggs destroyed. This left just four poultry farms in the district unaffected by HPAI.

In the far northwest of India, HPAI is also spreading through poultry flocks. In January, 25 rapid response teams were sent to the area to cull more than 84,000 poultry following detection of an HPAI virus, reports Big News Network. They also cleaned and sanitized the farms and surrounding areas.

These actions led a senior local official to declare that the affected district — SAS Nagar in the east of the state — is currently free of avian flu.

Further easing of restrictions in Australia

Restrictions put in place following a number of avian flu outbreaks in July and August of last year are being eased further, reports the agriculture department for the state of Victoria.

Remaining are only a five-kilometer control area around Lethbridge, and one covering a one-kilometer radius of a farm near Bairnsdale.

Last year, three farms in Victoria were infected with the H7N7 HPAI virus. Mild forms of the H5N2 variant were detected at two turkey farms, and an H7N6 subtype in a domestic emu flock.

Among the beneficiaries of the easing of the restrictions has been Farm Pride Foods. Stockhead reports that the egg producer and processor has made among the highest gains on the Australian Stock Exchange this week following the revocation of the quarantine notice by the Victoria state authorities. The company has vowed to restock as soon as possible.

In August of last year, Farm Pride announced the complete shutdown of its farm near Lethbridge after avian flu virus was detected at a neighboring premises.

No new outbreaks in Kuwait

According to the veterinary authority of Kuwait, no new cases of HPAI have been detected.

One month ago, a single outbreak linked to the H5N8 virus was reported to the OIE. It had occurred in the east of the country in early November of last year.

By the end of 2021, the poultry sector’s present disease difficulties are forecast to diminish, according to a leading industry analyst. In the meantime, he said, viruses will continue to make this a challenging year for the global industry.

View our continuing coverage of the global avian influenza situation.

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