Written by Terence Tan

The Bird Influenza

While trying to combat the 2019-nCoV virus in the past few weeks, China has been hit by another virus – and this time, it’s attacking poultry. The H5N1 bird flu outbreak was first reported in the central Hunan province. It was first detected on a farm in Shaoyang City, where the highly pathogenic subtype killed 4500 chickens. Almost 18,000 chickens have been culled since. While no human cases of the H5N1 virus have been reported, the World Health Organisation has confirmed that the H5N1 avian flu could indeed kill humans and has taken the lives of 455 people worldwide since 2003.

China, however, is not grappling with this alone. The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has announced that India has also reported an outbreak on a poultry farm in the Central State of Chhattisgarh last Wednesday. Of the 21,060 birds, 5,634 of them succumbed to the virus on the farm in Baikuthpur, while the remaining were slaughtered to contain the virus.


Not The First Animal

This is not the first virus to attack animals in mainland China. In August last year, the African Swine Flu was first reported in Liaoning, a coastal province in Northeastern China. Despite authorities’ efforts to cull tens of thousands of pigs and banning its import and export in and out of the affected area, the disease could not be contained.

As of December last year, the devastating disease has wiped out roughly a quarter of the world’s pigs. This has reshaped farming and hit the diets and pocketbooks of consumers worldwide.

On February 2, the Department of Agriculture in the Philippines announced that blood samples taken from pigs in a southern province tested positive for the African Swine Fever Virus. This was the first reported case in Southeast Asia. This prompted Agriculture Secretary William Dar to order regional department officials to restrict animal movement in that part of the archipelago. It has been speculated that pork smuggled from China could be behind the outbreak in the country.

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