Apr 21, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – To stem quickly spreading H5N1 avian influenza outbreaks that have hit South Korea over the past few weeks, agriculture ministry officials said today as many as 5.32 million birds would be culled, the largest such operation in the country’s history of battling the disease.Jin Pil-sik, an agriculture ministry official, said 4.85 million birds have already been slaughtered, according to a report today from the Associated Press (AP). By tomorrow, another 477,000 birds will be culled near the latest outbreak site in North Jeolla province, Lee Sung-jae, a provincial quarantine official, told the AP.In early April the H5N1 virus returned to South Korea after about a year with no reported outbreaks. The virus first hit an egg producer in Gimje in North Jeolla province and quickly spread to several more farms, mostly in the southwestern part of the country.South Korea’s agriculture ministry said the H5 strain has been confirmed at 26 farms, but did not say how many were the H5N1 subtype, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported today. As of Apr 15, the date of the country’s last update on the outbreaks to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), South Korea had reported 11 outbreaks, though it was not clear if the subtype had been confirmed for all of them.In other developments, officials today announced the launch of an 11-day operation to test birds at duck farms across the country, AFP reported. Kim Chang Sup, an agriculture ministry official, told AFP that the testing program will include all 80 breeding duck farms and a selection of other representative sites across the nation.Also, quarantine authorities have been culling poultry at 141 restaurants or farms that were visited by a dealer who reportedly took hundreds of ducks from an infected farm in Gimje, according to the AFP report.South Korea has never reported any human H5N1 cases or deaths, but in September 2006 health officials said five workers who helped cull poultry during outbreaks in 2003 had antibodies to the H5N1 virus but had never had symptoms. The 2006 report brought the total number of South Korean poultry workers who tested positive for H5N1 antibodies to nine. Tests on the workers’ samples were done at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.See also:Sep 21, 2006, CIDRAP news story “Five Koreans had H5N1 virus but no illness”Apr 15 OIE report on South Korea’s H5N1 outbreaks
Using a slightly different methodology, Aon Hewitt placed the figure at 99%.Mercer attributed the recent funding drop almost entirely to falling interest rates.At the end of last week, global equity markets remained more or less at the levels seen at the end of June, when they had almost fully recovered from the initial losses following the Brexit referendum.Meanwhile, Dutch regulator De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB) confirmed that three pension funds must begin discounting pension rights this year due to their precarious financial position.The regulator assessed the recovery plans – where schemes spell out how they expect to raise funding to the minimum of 105% within 10 years – of more than 180 of the 300-odd pension funds in the Netherlands.The regulator did not name the three pension funds involved but said about 9,000 workers and 500 pensioners would be affected by the rights cuts.Jetta Klijnsma, state secretary at the Ministry for Social Affairs, previously estimated that 27 pension funds, if they failed to improve their funding position by year-end, were facing rights cuts next year. Falling interest rates are piling pressure on Dutch pension funds, with Mercer and Aon Hewitt estimating that average coverage ratios dropped by a full 2 percentage points to 94% over the first week of July.At the beginning of this year, Dutch schemes’ day-to-day funding stood at 104% on average.Over the first week of July, the 30-year swap rate – the main criterion for discounting liabilities – fell from 0.88% to 0.70%, increasing liabilities by 3-4% on average, according to Mercer actuary Dennis van Ek.As of the end of June, Dutch pension funds’ ‘policy funding’ – which estimates average funding over the 12 months’ previous and is the main criterion for rights cuts and indexation – stood at 100% on average, according to Mercer.