Asia Minute: Bird Flu Outbreak Stuns South Korea

Dec 20, 2016

Credit Laughlin Elkind / Flickr

It’s officially flu season in Hawai‘i. According to the state Department of Health, flu season lingers here from November until May. But in Asia, there’s a different kind of flu that’s getting attention this week. HPR’s Bill Dorman explains in today’s Asia Minute.

Bird flu is hitting South Korea harder than ever before.

Agence France Presse reports more than 10% of the country’s poultry have been killed as authorities try to stop the spread of the virus.

That means more than 18 million chickens and ducks have been “culled”—to use the common term.

This is a different strain of avian flu from previous years—this version is H5N6.

So far, there have been no cases of human infections in South Korea, although the World Health Organization says China’s government reported two such cases earlier this month.

One of those cases is in Hunan province in China’s southeast; the other is in south central Guangxi province—which is on the border with Vietnam.

Japan has reported five outbreaks of avian flu among bird populations—leading to the culling of some 800,000 chickens, but no reports of human infections.

The first case involving birds in South Korea was reported more than a month ago and some have criticized the response of the central government saying officials were distracted by an ongoing political scandal.

South Korea’s Agriculture Minister reports one impact of the current outbreak: egg prices in the country are up roughly 30% from a year ago.