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S.Korea ups poultry cull in bid to stem bird flu

by 5m Editor
17 December 2003, at 12:00am

SOUTH KOREA - Faced with signs a highly contagious strain of bird flu is spreading, South Korea said on Wednesday it would slaughter tens of thousands of poultry and disinfect farms in an area south of the capital, Seoul.

S.Korea ups poultry cull in bid to stem bird flu - SOUTH KOREA - Faced with signs a highly contagious strain of bird flu is spreading, South Korea said on Wednesday it would slaughter tens of thousands of poultry and disinfect farms in an area south of the capital, Seoul.

Authorities also said they were looking at migratory birds as a possible cause of the outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza, which can in rare cases be deadly to humans.

"The National Veterinary Research & Quarantine Service suspects migratory birds are responsible for the outbreak of the infection," a statement from the Agriculture Ministry said.

Since the country confirmed its first case of bird flu on Monday among chickens at a farm about 80 km (50 miles) southeast of Seoul, two other farms have also reported symptoms of the disease among 15,000 chickens and 3,480 ducks.

"As the outbreak was also found to have affected ducks, which do not usually show symptoms of the disease, we decided to increase disinfection," the ministry's statement said.

It also said it was testing other areas where migratory birds gather on their journey south for the winter.

The ministry said on Wednesday it would destroy a combined 137,000 chickens and ducks, as well as their eggs, within a three-km (two-mile) radius of the first confirmed case in a bid to contain the outbreak.

The transport of produce from some 30 duck farms within a three- to 10-km radius was also restricted and the farms would undergo tests by December 24, the ministry said.

"We plan to destroy 400,000 poultry there if one more suspected case is reported," the ministry statement said, referring to the zone.

A variant of avian influenza identified as H5N1 killed six people in Hong Kong in 1997 and 1998 and South Korean authorities have asked for U.S. help to check whether the latest virus has the same gene as that strain.

Hundreds of Koreans living in the affected areas have been given blood tests, experts said. The results are expected in two weeks.

Local chicken demand has fallen slightly due to concerns over the disease while South Korean exports of chickens and chicken meat to Japan, Hong Kong and China have been halted, the ministry statement said.

Chicken prices at production sites were 816 won ($0.686) as of Tuesday, an 18 percent fall from a week ago, it added.

South Korea's poultry industry has 100 million chickens, mainly for local consumption ($1=1190.0 Won)

Source: Reuters Alertnet - 17th December 2003

5m Editor