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Dogs killed in bird flu alert
posted by admin on 29/11/06

Having killed millions of chickens and geese, the bird flu epidemic is claiming the lives of dogs and cats that are being slaughtered in South Korea to contain the virus.

Health officials in the town of Iksan, 250km (155 miles) south of the capital, Seoul, intend to kill 577 dogs and an unspecified number of cats after an outbreak of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza among farm chickens. A total of 236,000 chickens and 6 million eggs will also be destroyed, adding to the 96,000 birds that have already been culled.

At least 153 people have died of the H5N1 virus in ten countries since it was first detected among chickens in 2003. Virtually all those infected contracted the illness from the feathers or faeces of birds. It is feared that the virus will mutate into a form which can be passed from person to person, creating a global pandemic.

Some health experts believe that the killing of dogs and cats is unnecessary and will not impede the disease. “It is highly unusual, and it is not a science-based decision,” said Peter Roeder, of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation. “We’ve got absolutely no reason to believe they are important.”

A zoo in Thailand lost tigers and snow leopards to the disease three years ago after they had eaten chickens infected with H5N1. The virus has been detected among pet cats in Europe.

“Other countries do it,” said Kim Chang Sup, of the South Korean Health Ministry. “They just don’t talk about it. All mammals are potentially subject to the virus and South Korea is just trying to take all possible precautionary measures.”

Most of those who have died from H5N1 have been in South-east Asia, especially Indonesia and Vietnam. Nearly all the infections have occurred in people who lived on farms or villages in close daily proximity to chickens or ducks.

A mutation of a virus is believed to have created the Spanish flu, which killed between 20 million and 100 million people across the world in 1918 and 1919. Humanto-human infections may have occurred during outbreaks of bird flu in Hong Kong and Europe in 1997, which remained under control.

258 Confirmed cases of bird flu in humans; 153 deaths

Source: World Health Organisation

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