Traveling to South Korea soon? You may want to be extra cautious as the South Korean government has just issued a high-risk warning on a H5N6 virus outbreak in the country. The warning is at its highest level for the first time ever. The highly pathogenic virus was first confirmed in mid-November and is currently spreading at a rapid rate.
The first case of the outbreak was enough to cause over 16 million chicken and ducks to be culled or 10% of the national poultry stock to date. This isn’t the first time the nation has been plagued with such epidemic. The worst outbreak was previously recorded back in 2014 where over 14 million birds were slaughtered.
"We raised the alert level to the 'grave level' in a bid to contain the spread of the avian influenza," Agriculture Minister Kim Jae-Soo said.
"Grave" is the final step on the four-level alert system, which means officials have the power to ban movements of vehicles carrying birds, close poultry meat stores or animal slaughterhouses, vaccinate all poultry, or disinfect any vehicles on the road.
"We raised the alert level because of this reality in which we are witnessing the growing speed and infection rate of the outbreak," Kim said.
The alert may cause some drastic price hike for poultry and eggs in Korea and the government has warned of a possible disruption in future poultry supply. There are no cases of human infection of the H5N6 virus in Korea to date but the virus has previously killed six people in China between 2014 and 2016.