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Moon’s first litmus test

June 06,2017
The government raised the alert for the possibility of a renewed outbreak of avian flu across the country. An infected flock of Korean Ogol chickens, a native black fowl, from a farm in Gunsan in North Jeolla had been supplied to Paju in Gyeonggi Province, Jeju Island, Yangsan in South Gyeongsang, and Busan.

The alarm was raised only two days after the government formerly announced it completely combated the worst-ever outbreak of avian flu that ruined poultry and egg farming during the winter.

The agriculture ministry culled 30,000 chickens in the region. But further damage is feared given the stretch of the contaminated areas and unclear path of the infection. Authorities were confounded after they let their guard down after declaring that avian influenza was no longer a threat on June 1.

It is rare for avian influenza to hit the nation at this time of year. The flu virus is usually carried by winter migratory birds, which cause infection during the winter and early spring. It typically cannot survive in high temperatures and humidity. The discovery suggests that the flu could be a threat year-round. Experts fear a new strain if the influenza is determined highly pathogenic.

The outbreak will be a test of the new government’s crisis management. The country suffered the worst-ever outbreak of the flu because the previous government failed to act when the influenza first broke out in November, while the country was engrossed with protests against the scandal-ridden president.

As result, 37.87 million poultry were killed, and eggs had to be imported due to a shortage in supply. The poultry industry was wrecked.

The new administration must do all it can in order not to repeat the mistake. Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon ordered all possible measures to combat the situation as soon as possible. The agriculture ministry raised the bird flu warning to the third level in its four-tier system and banned the sales of live poultry across the country.

The prime minister must activate an emergency team and personally oversee thorough quarantine and investigation procedures. A bird flu epidemic in the summer could be more damaging than a winter outbreak.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 5, Page 30