North Korea is reportedly sounding the alarm after suffering a major avian flu outbreak in several of its poultry farms across the country. The new crisis comes as the Kim Jong Un-led nation finally publicly admitted that it had discovered at least one positive case of the novel coronavirus, spurring a state of emergency.
"An outbreak of avian influenza led to mass deaths at eight chicken farms, including a farm in Sinpo, South Hamgyong Province," a source told Daily NK. "The incident was reported all the way up to the central authorities."
As a result of the mass infections, authorities have released orders to strengthen animal disease control measures.
"The government ordered agencies focused on livestock in each province to sterilize... facilities and regularly monitor [the implementation of] disease control measures concerning livestock," the insider added.
The orders do not just pertain to official facilities. Many citizens keep animals in the home as an additional source of income or food, and officials have been warned to monitor those situations as well.
"Given that many North Koreans raise chickens or geese at home, municipal and district animal disease prevention offices have been told to make sure [they also check animals living in these homes]," the insider added.
The penalty for failing such new regulations has also been increased, and police have reportedly been told to hand down "legal punishments" to those who commit "illegal behavior."
Moreover, citizens have been warned that if a second wave of the avian flu hits their premises, the government will not treat the incident as a "simple mistake" but rather as a direct violation of party orders.
The new directive also made it the duty of the police to burn the corpses of animals that had tested positive for the avian flu in addition to monitoring farms and local markets to end all illegal sales of livestock.
The wide-spread outbreak of avian flu is likely to be a cause of concern, not just for North Korean health officials, but for those around the world. Though rare, the virus has gone on to infect humans, causing both mild and serious illnesses. Moreover, like the novel coronavirus that appeared in Wuhan last year, avian viruses have the potential to cause yet another pandemic.
In addition, the crisis comes as North Korea has been hit with rumors of a famine, with some sources claiming that residents of the capital city of Pyongyang have not received food rations in months. The whispers were not helped by the recent order that soldiers start breeding rabbits, which many believe is intended to be a second food source for the population.