South Korea will double its stockpiles of antiviral flu medicine Tamiflu as avian flu has spread through most the country, health officials said yesterday.
South Korea has not recorded any human cases, however the deadly H5N1 strain was detected in an aviary in Seoul this week, the first time bird flu has been found in the capital.
The state-run Korea Center for Disease and Control said that it would secure Tamiflu reserves for 2.5 million treatment courses by the end of this year, up from the current reserve set for 1.24 million.
The decision came after South Korean President Lee Myung-bak yesterday told his Cabinet to increase stockpiles of anti-viral drugs to ease public fears about bird flu.
“The people are increasingly concerned about human infection of avian influenza,” Lee was quoted as saying at a meeting of Cabinet ministers by Yonhap news agency.
“The government has to devise sufficient countermeasures, including expansion of antiviral flu drug imports,” he said.
The H5N1 strain has killed more than 240 people worldwide since late 2003.
The agriculture ministry said quarantine authorities were decontaminating all aviaries and poultry farms in Seoul and public access had been limited to those areas.
The butchering of chickens and ducks at traditional markets and restaurants should be prohibited, the ministry said.
“Traditional markets where chickens and ducks are sold and butchered in unsanitary conditions are suspected of having contributed to spreading the avian flu,” said Kim Chang-seob, chief veterinary officer at the agriculture ministry.
As of Friday, 6.8 million chickens and ducks had been slaughtered since the latest outbreak was reported on April 1.