USFK issues bird flu warning
SEOUL — U.S. Forces Korea officials are warning the military community to avoid undercooked chicken and eggs in off-base establishments as South Korea battles two avian flu outbreaks.
South Korean officials have destroyed 308,000 chickens since late last week to contain an outbreak at a farm about 10 to 20 miles from Kunsan Air Base. About 6,500 ducks also were destroyed Saturday at the location of a second outbreak — at Jeongeup poultry farm — according to The Associated Press.
There have been no reports of human infection with the H5N1 bird flu virus during the latest outbreaks, said Terry Klein, an 18th Medical Command regional emerging infectious disease consultant.
Klein said Monday that the South Korean government took rapid steps to stop the outbreaks, and has successfully contained earlier outbreaks.
“If you look at the maps of what happened previously, it happened spottily. It happened in one location and didn’t migrate,” he said.
Klein said people should avoid eating runny eggs, and avoid chicken meat that’s pink or bloody.
“If the chicken products are really cooked well, it’s probably not any risk at all,” Klein said.
All poultry products sold at AAFES and DeCA — including most eggs — come from the United States and are safe, according to the 8th Army release. Any eggs procured locally for resale on base are heat-treated and also safe, according to the release.
Officials routinely perform food sanitation inspections at all USFK dining facilities, restaurants and commercial vendors, except South Korean snack bar and Embassy Club vendors.
Klein said outbreaks typically happen when geese, ducks and other large birds migrate and leave feces in rice paddies from where the virus can spread to nearby chicken farms.
Five hundred workers killed chickens at the outbreak site in Gimje, North Jeolla province, and six other farms within a 500-yard radius of the outbreak site on Saturday. They planned to kill other chickens in the nearby village of Sinam, according to an 8th Army press release.
The release said eggs produced at farms within about two miles of the outbreak also would be destroyed, and none of the 3.57 million birds within a six-mile radius of the farms were being allowed to leave the area.
Checkpoints were set up on roads linking North Jeolla to other provinces.
“Probably none of these chickens are going to end up in the food chain,” Klein said. “The government does not want any human cases here.”
To avoid avian flu:
Stay away from bird farms and bird markets, and avoid any contact with wild or farm birds.
Make sure all eggs and chicken products are well- cooked before eating them. Avoid the traditional Korean dish “bibimbap,” which is usually topped with a lightly- cooked egg.
Make sure your seasonal flu shot is up to date. The shot doesn’t prevent someone from contracting avian flu from birds, but the virus can mutate in someone who contracts human and avian flu at the same time and spread to other people.
Courtesy of the 8th U.S. Army