S. Korean officials to warn poultry farmers about avian flu
SEOUL — The South Korean government plans to issue a warning about avian flu to its poultry farmers Friday as a migratory season for wild birds begins, an official from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry said this week.
The warning will remind the poultry industry here about early detection and quarantine procedures meant to stem the spread of the fatal virus, said Kim Jun- geol, an official from the ministry’s livestock quarantine division.
The action was not prompted by any new outbreak in South Korea of the avian flu and chickens raised in South Korea remain safe to eat, Kim said. Rather, the alert comes because of a migratory pattern from west to east that many species of birds use from November through February, he said.
Avian flu has been found in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and South Korea, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although it is rare for people to contract the virus, the death rate is 50 percent among the known human cases, according to the CDC’s Web site.
Many birds carry the virus without getting ill and pass it to others through nasal secretions, feces or saliva. But about eight years ago, humans began dying of the disease. Researchers believe people have contracted the disease from close contact with the birds or their living areas.
The World Health Organization, the United Nations and other international groups are working with dozens of countries to control the spread of the disease and prevent a situation in which people begin passing virus to each other. Were that to happen, a worldwide pandemic could occur, some health experts have warned.
South Korea has one of the best-developed emergency plans should the disease break out here, according to world health officials quoted in The New York Times last week. From late 2003 to early 2004, Korean officials reported 19 instances of the disease. The country slaughtered 5.3 million birds, and no people died, Kim said.
U.S. Forces Korea officials were unable to answer questions Wednesday about any flu guidelines in place for servicemembers, their families or other Americans working with the military on the peninsula.
On Okinawa, U.S. Navy medical officials have guidance on hand to direct responses to an outbreak. Those guidelines include both treatment for individual patients and quarantine measures to prevent the disease from spreading.
Symptoms of avian flu are that of typical winter cold and flu signs: cough, muscle aches, sore throat and possibly vomiting and diarrhea. Another possible sign of avian flu is coming down with a high fever — greater than 104 degrees — after having traveled to or through an at-risk region in the previous 10 days, Naval officials have said.
Kim said his ministry is not issuing any specific warnings to individuals. He did suggest that U.S. soldiers who conduct training missions in rural parts of the country refrain from killing or handling birds.