Korea Freezes Poultry Shipments

Highly pathogenic H5N6 cases reach six on Friday

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South Korea's agriculture ministry said on Friday a temporary nationwide standstill order for poultry farms and related transport will take effect over the weekend in a bid to contain a wider spread of H5N6 bird flu, a severe strain of the disease.

The H5N6 influenza virus infection is believed to be a cross species infection, and is the primary virus for avian. The avian H5N6 influenza virus in avian population is a low virulent strain.

However, the clinical manifestation in human seems severe.

As a new emerging infection, there is no specific vaccine for H5N6.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs said in a statement that the movement control order will be put in place for 48 hours, effective from 1500 GMT on Friday - midnight in South Korea.

The move comes as the number of cases of the highly pathogenic H5N6 strain rose to six on Friday since the first cases were reported a week ago. About 730,000 birds have been killed to prevent the spread of the disease as of Friday, according to the ministry - under 1 percent of the country's poultry population of 84.7 million.

A new case was confirmed at a duck farm in the southwestern part of the country, where 16,700 ducks had been culled as a precautionary measure, according to the statement.

Kim Yong-sang, a senior official at the ministry's animal health management division, said six cases were confirmed as of Friday with four other suspected cases still being tested.

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"We believe infected migratory birds have spread the virus and each case occurred separately," Kim said at a briefing.

"Currently we are looking into whether the virus also has been spread between farms."

Avian influenza refers to the disease caused by infection with avian (bird) influenza (flu) Type A viruses. These viruses occur naturally among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other bird and animal species. Avian flu viruses do not normally infect humans.

However, sporadic human infections with avian flu viruses have occurred.

Cases of human infections from the H5N6 virus have previously been reported elsewhere, including China and Hong Kong, with the virus killing at least 10 people in China since April 2014. No cases of human infection have been detected in South Korea.

The widely used antiviral at present is oseltamivir.

In fact, oseltamivir is the antiviral drug for management of classical influenza infection. It was also used for management of the patients with the new atypical influenza infection.