Just in from Reuters:

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea Sunday confirmed a bird flu outbreak at two chicken farms in the capital Pyongyang and said the farms slaughtered and buried hundreds of thousands of chickens infected by the disease.

But no one is reported to have been infected among breeders on the farms, the North’s official KCNA news agency said. …

I can’t find an online copy of the lengthy article I read in the Feb. 28 issue of The New Yorker on avian flu. There is an online-only interview with the author, Michael Specter. A commentary at Recombinomics.com calls the lack of vigilance “scandalous“:

“Vigilance,” Specter writes, “is one of the few weapons available.” As one senior official at the Thai Ministry of Public Health says, “We are certainly better than we ever were at detecting viruses. But we are also much better at spreading them.” …

Thailand had 17 cases and 12 official bird flu deaths last season, and no reported cases this season, but both numbers lack credibility.¬† …

Moreover, the recent New England Journal report on cases that had fatal H5N1 infections but failed to initially show respiratory symptoms raises the specter of more untested and / or unreported cases, which may extend well beyond the borders of Vietnam or Thailand.

In view of the fact that vigilance is one of the few weapons available, the failure to monitor H5N1 avian influenza remains scandalous.

More on the threat, from OnPointRadio:

Watching for the Next Pandemic  

The World Health Organization this week issued a serious alarm that the Asian bird flu outbreak, currently limited primarily to Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, poses the “gravest possible danger” of turning into major global pandemic. The avian flu virus has affected poultry in eight Asian countries, and killed 45 people so far.

It may not sound like much, but this new, highly virulent and deadly virus is poised to make the leap from birds to a full-fledged human disease that could burn around the world. It has happened before. In 1918 the great flu pandemic killed some 20 to 50 million people worldwide. Global health officials say that if something isn’t done right now, this new avian flu could become a similar killer.

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