By Nam Hyun-woo
The threat of avian influenza has expanded across the country during the Lunar New Year holiday weekend, with a migratory bird confirmed to be infected with the virus found in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province.
The Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency (QIA) said Saturday a wild goose found dead in the Rural Development Administration (RDA) in Suwon carried the highly pathogenic H5N8 strain.
The RDA is located some 10 kilometers from the National Institute of Animal Science (NIAS), which raises some 19,000 poultry, including 700 breeding hens. Officials at the institute are concerned that the possible spread of bird flu may affect its genetic resources.
After the confirmation, the RDA shut down its office Sunday and launched disinfection work as well as imposing off-limits measures to protect the poultry from infection.
NIAS Director General Hong Seong-koo said, "The genetic resources that this institute has are the results of research endeavors over the past 20 years," adding that NIAS members will not leave the office until the outbreak is under control.
In the third week since the first case of bird flu was reported, the H5N8 strain is now threatening Busan.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs said Sunday that a farm raising some 25,000 chickens there has reported a suspected outbreak, with 200 birds found dead. The QIA dispatched officials to the farm and prohibited the movement of poultry and workers there.
The farm is 34 kilometers south of one in Miryang, South Gyeongsang Province, which was infected with H5N8 last month.
Busan City Government officials said Sunday 13 wild birds found dead around habitats in the city were negative for the virus, and it was premature to suspect that Busan is safe since the virus may have been spread through other vectors.
So far, 20 suspected cases across the country have been reported, with 13 confirmed to be of the H5N8 strain. Some 2.5 million ducks and chickens were slaughtered through Sunday as a preventive measure.
Meanwhile, ruling Saenuri Party Chairman Hwang Woo-yea said that his party will discuss plans to compensate for all damages incurred by the culls of ducks and chickens at bird flu-affected farms from state coffers.