Bird Flu :: South Korea poultry farm – suspected bird flu virus found

South Korea’s farm ministry said on Thursday it had discovered a suspected case of bird flu at a poultry farm in the southwest of the country, which could be the country’s first outbreak in about three years.

The official said about 6,000 chickens at a farm in North Cholla province had died this week. The remaining 6,000 or so poultry at the farm would now be culled.

“This case appears quite likely to involve highly pathogenic avian influenza,” Kim Chang-sub, a top official at the ministry’s quarantine department, told a news conference.

“The final results of our testing should be known on Nov. 25,” Kim said, adding he would not speculate as to whether it was the H5N1 strain, which is potentially deadly to human beings.

The report comes as migratory birds typically pass through the Korean peninsula, heading south for the winter from places such as Russia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia. The farm being investigated lies on a migration path, the ministry said.

Kim said Seoul would strengthen preventative measures, which include keeping farm poultry indoors during the migration season and checking wild bird flocks for signs of avian influenza.

About 400,000 poultry at South Korean farms were infected by bird flu between December 2003 and March 2004.

Subsequent testing in the United States indicated that at least South Korean nine workers involved in the mass culling of birds had been infected with the H5N1 bird flu virus but none of them developed any major illnesses, South Korean health officials have said.

The World Health Organisation said that as of Nov. 13, there have been 258 cases of human infection of the H5N1 strain from 2003, killing 153 people.

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