North Korea Has Bird Flu Under Control: UN official

2005-07-08
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BANGKOK—North Korea, which recently announced an end to the outbreak of avian influenza within its borders, has the deadly virus under control for the time being, an official with the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has said.

"If you have no confirmed new outbreak for a 90-day period, you can declare your country free of bird flu," Hans Wagner, bird flu expert at the FAO's Bangkok office, told RFA.

"The North Koreans are continuing to carry out investigations. As far as we know, no new case has reported to us or to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE)," Wagner said in an interview with RFA's Korean service.

He said the FAO had provided equipment, materials, and technical know-how to enable the North Korean authorities to monitor areas where the highly pathenogenic virus was still endemic in chicken and duck populations.

The FAO said the bird flu outbreak in reclusive North Korea was caused by an H7 strain of the virus, which causes severe disease in chickens but is not directly related to the H5N1 strain circulating in other parts of Asia.

The North first reported the outbreak in March, saying it had occurred at two bird farms in the capital Pyongyang.

No outbreaks since February

"The outbreaks have been limited to so far to three big state farms. After the outbreaks in February, we haven't seen any new outbreak in the country," Wagner added.

He said that several countries were cooperating with Pyongyang to help control the virus, which the World Health Organization (WHO) fears could engender a global pandemic in humans, if the virus succeeds in mutating—via mammals—to a form transmissible between humans.

"Australia has agreed to provide funds for projects to upgrade their diagnostic facilities and provide technical experience and experts," Wagner told RFA.

"North Korea is part of FAO's regional project on control and diagnosis of avian influenza together with China and Mongolia."

"They have established the necessary measures to control it," Wagner said.

Original reporting in Korean by Jinhee Lee. RFA Korean service director: Jaehoon Ahn. Produced for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie.

Original reporting in Korean

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