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Japan orders major poultry cull after bird flu outbreak

‘South Korea to cull 3 percent of poultry’

SEKIKAWA, Japan : Wearing anti-virus suits, soldiers of the Ground Self Defense Force head for chicken farm in Sekikawa, Niigata prefecture, yesterday.—AFP
SEKIKAWA, Japan : Wearing anti-virus suits, soldiers of the Ground Self Defense Force head for chicken farm in Sekikawa, Niigata prefecture, yesterday.—AFP

TOKYO: Japan has started culling more than 300,000 chickens and ducks after the discovery of a highly contagious form of bird flu on farms in the north of the country, local officials said. The bird flu outbreaks are the first in nearly two years in Japan and news of the cullings boosted shares in some infection-control product makers.

In Niigata prefecture north of Tokyo, authorities on Tuesday started culling about 310,000 chickens at a farm in the village of Sekikawa after 40 birds were found dead from H5 bird flu, a prefectural official told Reuters by telephone. The cull will continue until Dec 2, the official said. Further north in the prefecture of Aomori, about 16,500 ducks were being culled in the city of the same name after some tested positive for bird flu, according to a statement on the prefecture’s website. This is the first time that highly pathogenic avian influenza has been confirmed in Aomori prefecture, it said. The agriculture ministry said the outbreaks are the first for nearly two years in poultry farms in Japan.

Taiko Pharmaceutical Co, which makes infection-control products, surged 3.2 percent, and mask maker Daiwabo Holdings, jumped 5.1 percent. Protective clothing maker Azearth Corp, which is listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s second section, soared 17 percent to its daily limit of 681 yen. Meanwhile, grilled-chicken restaurant operator Torikizoku Co dropped 2.8 percent. “The news about bird flu is affecting these shares, but these moves tend to be short-lived,” said Mitsushige Akino, chief fund manager at Ichiyoshi Asset Management.

South Korea last Friday announced a temporary nationwide standstill order for poultry farms and related transport over the weekend in a bid to contain a spread of H5N6 bird flu, a severe strain of the disease. Another severe strain of bird flu, H5N8, has hit several countries in Europe and led to the culling of thousands of poultry after being detected in wild ducks in Northern France. In recent weeks there have also been outbreaks in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Romania and Germany. Dutch authorities destroyed about 190,000 ducks on Saturday at six farms following an avian flu outbreak.

Farmers located in humid regions, where the risk of transmission is higher, are advised by health authorities to keep poultry flocks indoors or apply safety nets preventing contact with wild birds. The H5N8 virus has never been detected in humans but it led to the culling of millions of farm birds in Asia, mainly South Korea, in 2014 before spreading to Europe. The World Organization for Animal Health had warned in an interview with Reuters mid-November that more outbreaks of H5N8 were likely in Europe as wild birds believed to transmit the virus migrate southward.

In another development, South Korea will cull 3 percent of its total poultry population to curb an outbreak of bird flu that has hit a number of farms across the nation, its agriculture ministry said yesterday. Since a severe strain of bird flu known as H5N6 cropped up on Nov 18, Asia’s fourth-largest economy has stepped up its quarantine measures to contain the virus, including issuing a 48-hour nationwide standstill order for this last weekend. Despite the efforts, Korea’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs said in a statement yesterday that four new cases of H5N6 had been confirmed in central South Korea. That brings the total number of infected birds to 13 since H5N6 appeared about two weeks ago, according to the statement.  Nine other farm birds are also being tested for suspected infections, it said.

To contain the further spread of the virus, the ministry will slaughter at least 2.78 million birds, including 1.68 million that have already been culled, the ministry said. That would be nearly 3.3 percent of South Korea’s total poultry population of 84.7 million. Sales of chicken, eggs and ducks at three major discount stores – E-Mart Inc, Lotte Mart and Homeplus Stores Co – have not dropped as consumers know that poultry products are safe to eat as long as they are cooked properly, company spokesmen at the three retailers said.

Supplies of chicken and duck meat and eggs have not tightened, an agriculture ministry official said, but it would have to implement measures such as importing more to meet demand if the bird flu outbreak was prolonged. South Korea’s poultry supply is self-sufficient, but it still imports some chicken products, mainly from Brazil, Denmark and the United States.- Agencies

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