Nation To Step up Defences against Avian Influenza…Again

Nial Moores PhD, September 20th

During the past decade, Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (“Poultry Flu”) has caused deaths in wild birds and in some people that have come into close contact with infected poultry. Especially in East Asia, it has on occasion even led to the closure of nature reserves and caused fear of wild birds. The accelerated slaughter of poultry and “agricultural animals” to eradicate outbreaks of the disease has also resulted in huge economic costs to the poultry industry and to many agricultural households. Although a growing number of us believe that the best and only real way over the longer term to prevent Poultry Flu will be a global shift towards vegetarianism, the ROK government is still to be congratulated for stepping up the nation’s defences at this time against further import of the disease.

According to the Yeonhap News agency and The Korea Times (September 14th), the government stated that it “will begin monitoring all its ports of entry to intercept any possible inflow of avian influenza”. This “move comes as new outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza have already been reported in many Asian countries including China and Hong Kong as well as in Mexico…The government is stepping up its prevention measures due to an expected rise in the number of people going overseas during the Chuseok holiday along with an increase in the number of Chinese tourists coming to the country during China’s national holidays from Sept. 30 to Oct. 7“, the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said in a press release.

A reminder of previous winters: No Entry due to Avian Influenza Outbreak.
Copyright Birds Korea.

The statement is important in several ways. For a start, it recognises that the likely route of HPAI into the Republic of Korea is through the import of poultry and animal “products”. It also suggests that increased controls on imports is considered to be a cost-effective and practical way to reduce the likelihood of yet another domestic outbreak of the disease. In contrast to the time of the earliest HPAI outbreaks in the ROK, there is now much better information on the spread and the control of the disease, and these increased checks of imports are in line with this.

As HPAI Poultry Flu is strongly associated with animal agriculture, much of this information at the global level is being organised and published by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). The FAO provides clear guidance on monitoring of the disease in wild birds, which emphasises that “The health and well-being of the birds should be the primary concern” (FAO 2007). And the FAO has also produced an overview of the present state of knowledge, that focuses on the need for “rigorous implementation of biosecurity (and other disease prevention) measures” (See Chapter 1, FAO 2012).

Who could disagree with such expert advice?



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