Sun, Dec 24, 2006 - Page 5 News List

S Korea combats virus by slaughtering more birds

AP , SEOUL

Asian countries scrambled to limit the spread of bird flu following a fresh outbreak among poultry in South Korea

Meanwhile, health officials from the WHO welcomed a significant drop in the number of human deaths from the H5N1 virus in Indonesia.

South Korean quarantine officials completed the slaughter of 23,000 poultry yesterday within 3km of the outbreak site on a duck farm in Asan, about 90km south of Seoul, Agriculture Ministry official Lee Joo-won said.

South Korea has reported four outbreaks in less than a month, worrying health officials.

The ministry confirmed that the outbreak involved the H5 strain, but said further tests were needed to determine whether it was the deadly H5N1 virus.

Authorities have ordered the slaughter of more than 1 million birds in an attempt to keep the disease from spreading to more farms.

Although some complained, South Korean farmers have been largely cooperative in the slaughter because the government has compensated them financially.

But in Vietnam, which this week reported its first bird flu outbreak in a year, some poultry farmers have been unwilling to comply with a slaughter ordered by the government, despite the danger it poses to their own health and to other domesticated and wild flocks.

More than 6,000 chickens and ducklings have died from H5N1 in the past two weeks in Ca Mau and Bac Lieu provinces.

At least 154 people have died from H5N1 worldwide, according to the WHO.

Most of those who have died came into direct contact with infected birds.

Experts fear, however, that the virus could mutate into a form that becomes easily passed among people and thus potentially spark a quick and dangerous pandemic.

Indonesia, the nation worst hit by H5N1, also initially balked at slaughtering birds in infected areas and vaccinating flocks, citing a lack of funds.

International experts have accused the country of not doing enough to tackle the virus.

But it recently launched a large-scale public education campaign that included the use of TV commercials to urge people to wash their hands after coming into contact with poultry.

The authorities are also working to convice farmers to report sick or dying birds to officials.

The aggressive campaign has apparently paid off, with the number of human deaths in Indonesia from the virus slowing markedly over the last three months.

But WHO said it was too soon to draw conclusions.

Stopping the spread in Indonesia, a sprawling island nation with a population of around 220 million people, is a priority because it has been the only country regularly reporting new human cases.

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