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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on June 6)

All Headlines 08:59 June 06, 2017

Revived bird flu fears

Highly contagious avian influenza is again spreading nationwide. The virus is believed to have originated from a farm in Gunsan, North Jeolla Province, and quarantine officials warned that bird flu could hit at least six cities and provinces across the country.

The fresh case of avian influenza was confirmed at a small poultry farm on the southern island of Jeju. The farm bought five silkie chickens at a traditional market, May 27, but they died suddenly two days later. The farm did not report the deaths immediately to the authorities. Three more chickens died Friday, and the farm finally reported the deaths.

The silkie chickens were from the farm in Gunsan that breeds around 15,000 poultry a year. After the chickens were confirmed to have been infected with the H5N8 strain, some 12,000 chickens and ducks were culled at 14 farms within a 3-kilometer radius of the affected farm on Jeju.

The farm in Gunsan also sold chickens to farms in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, and Yangsan, South Gyeongsang Province. Chickens in the farms have tested positive for virus.

Following the new discovery, the agriculture ministry banned the sales of live poultry starting Sunday and raised its bird flu alert level. On Monday, the ministry raised the alert to its highest level after the strains from the latest affected farms were found to be highly pathogenic.

The latest outbreaks are the first since early April. The last bird flu epidemic that began to sweep the country in November last year resulted in the culling of a record 37 million poultry, with estimated damages reaching 1 trillion won.

It is rare for the virus to be found in early summer because it cannot survive in high temperatures and humidity. So there are growing concerns that the virus may have mutated and thus could occur at all times regardless of the season.

The government should do its utmost to prevent the virus from spreading further by clarifying the sales channels of the farm in Gunsan. At a time when chicken and egg prices have already soared, the fresh bird flu outbreaks will prompt the damage to spiral out of control.
(END)

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