Bird flu outbreak in DPR of Korea contained UN agency reports

Thanks to the culling of nearly 220,000 infected chickens, vaccination of others and strict biosecurity measures, the recent outbreak of bird flu in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has been successfully contained, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced today.The agency urged the country to continue surveillance on affected farms and elsewhere to ensure that no residual infection remains from the H7 strain, which is unrelated to the H5N1 bird flu virus that has claimed dozens of human lives in other parts of Asia over the past year.“The virus appears to have been eliminated from the three infected farms by combining culling of around 218,000 infected chickens, vaccination of unaffected birds in unaffected poultry houses and strict biosecurity measures,” said FAO consultant Les Sims, who travelled to the DPRK to advise veterinary authorities on bird flu control.FAO sent three experts to the country to assist national authorities in diagnosis and disease management after it requested UN help earlier this month.The DPRK has acted promptly and appropriately and has provided essential information in a timely manner, Mr. Sims said.Further south, the H5N1 strain, which health authorities fear could kill tens of millions people worldwide in a worst-case scenario, has infected 90 people, about 50 of them fatally, since the first human case linked to widespread poultry outbreaks in Viet Nam and Thailand was reported in January last year. Nearly 140 million domestic birds have died or been culled over the past year in Southeast Asia in an effort to curb the spread of the disease.The UN World Health Organization (WHO) is concerned that continuing transmission of this strain to humans might give avian and human influenza viruses an opportunity to exchange genes, facilitating a pandemic. The so-called Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1920, unrelated to the H5N1 virus, is estimated to have killed between 20 million and 40 million people worldwide. read more