Seoul/Vienna, 3 August 2023 – South Korea´s Ministry of Agriculture has confirmed that the recent avian influenza infection in a cat in a Seoul shelter stemmed from contaminated cat food. The manufacturer has now been ordered to “recall and destroy” all products.
People who have had contact with the cats in the affected shelters have not shown any symptoms.
This was the first detection of avian influenza in cats in the region since 2016.
The South Korean Ministry of Agriculture said in a statement, "The company had not fully followed necessary sterilization steps over the course of manufacturing products since May 25th. The government ordered the company to stop producing and selling the items, and to recall and destroy them.”
The ministry has also announced that it will now have a national wide inspection of all manufacturers of animal food.
FOUR PAWS, the global animal welfare organisation, said the situation is “alarming and deeply troubling”.
"The cats in the Seoul shelter caught the virus from contaminated cat food, which is alarming and deeply troubling and an investigation as to the source needs to be done quickly and efficiently by the national authorities.
Wendla Beyer, FOUR PAWS Policy Coordinator
“The source of this epidemic of highly pathogenic avian influenza is intensive farming. Without decisive action to reduce the numbers of animals farmed and restructure food systems, the outbreaks will continue to happen."
The incident follows a series of avian influenza infections in mammals across the world with the World Health Organisation saying the virus is “rapidly evolving”.
According to the World Organisation for Animal Health, by the end of 2022, sixty-seven countries across five continents had reported highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreaks. This tallied up to 131 million domestic poultry lost due to infection or culling. To date, a further fourteen countries have reported outbreaks as the disease continues to spread.
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FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.four-paws.org