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30 March 2005

Bird Flu Appears in North Korean Poultry

No human cases reported, World Health Organization says

The World Health Organization (WHO) is acknowledging official reports of bird flu in poultry in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Outbreaks are reported in commercial poultry farms and culling is under way, according to the update issued by WHO March 30.

No human cases have been reported to date in North Korea, and WHO reports assurances from government officials that they are taking steps to prevent and detect cases in people, should they occur.

North Korea becomes the 10th Asian nation reporting bird flu outbreaks since 2003, according to the World Organisation for Animal Health [http://www.oie.int/eng/en_index.htm].

Hundreds of millions of birds have been culled in the nations where outbreaks have occurred. Human cases have been reported in three nations, and health officials are concerned about the possibility of a widespread outbreak of a virulent strain of virus in people.

The text of the World Health Organization update follows:

(begin text)

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION

Avian influenza - outbreak in poultry in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea - update 13

30 March 2005

On 27 March, state media in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea officially reported the country's first outbreak of avian influenza in poultry. To date, outbreaks involving large numbers of poultry have been reported at commercial poultry farms, including one in Pyongyang Province. Mass culling has been undertaken by the authorities in an effort to prevent further spread.

No human cases have been reported to date.

Government officials have assured WHO that all measures are being undertaken to prevent transmission to humans and to detect human cases, should they occur.

The WHO country office in Pyongyang has offered direct assistance to the Ministry of Public Health in strengthening surveillance and diagnostic capacity for the detection of possible human cases. WHO has offered to send oseltamivir, an antiviral drug that can be used prophylactically, to reduce the risk of human infection and disease, as well as therapeutically.

The WHO country office has further offered to supply personal protective equipment for poultry cullers.

WHO is this week despatching test kits to support laboratory diagnosis of H5-subtype avian influenza in humans. Further assistance has been offered in the form of training of local staff in laboratory diagnosis and surveillance.

In monitoring the outbreak, WHO staff in Pyongyang are working closely with the FAO local and regional offices, which are also offering specialized expertise.

(end text)