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Bird flu kills thousands of North Korea chickens

by 5m Editor
15 March 2005, at 12:00am

NORTH KOREA - South Korean officials are investigating a report of a massive bird flu outbreak in the North Korean capital last month that killed several thousand chickens in the impoverished communist state. Quoting an unnamed source, Yonhap news agency said on Tuesday that the chickens died at a poultry farm in Pyongyang, prompting North Korean authorities into an emergency response.

Bird flu kills thousands of North Korea chickens - NORTH KOREA - South Korean officials are investigating a report of a massive bird flu outbreak in the North Korean capital last month that killed several thousand chickens in the impoverished communist state. Quoting an unnamed source, Yonhap news agency said on Tuesday that the chickens died at a poultry farm in Pyongyang, prompting North Korean authorities into an emergency response.

Officials in Seoul said a South Korean food processing firm had asked Pyongyang to suspend the shipment of 40 tonnes of chicken due to arrive in the South on Thursday.

"It won't be coming on Thursday," an agriculture ministry official said by telephone.

The shipment was to have been the first import of meat products in five decades from the North under a new bilateral agreement signed earlier this year providing for cross-border trade of some commodities.

Kim Hong-jae, a spokesman for the South's Unification Ministry, said there was no evidence yet to confirm the bird flu outbreak, but the government was following the report.

Yonhap said it was not immediately clear if the outbreak was restricted to the farm, believed to be the largest in the country and located in the western part of Pyongyang.

It was also not clear if the strain of virus involved was H5N1, which has been known to jump from birds to humans.

That virus has killed 34 Vietnamese, 12 Thais and one Cambodian since it swept across large parts of Asia in late 2003.

Yonhap said North Korean authorities had buried the dead chickens but that some residents had dug up the poultry to sell.

North Korea's state media last week said authorities were doing everything to prevent bird flu from infiltrating the country, but did not say whether there had been an outbreak of the disease.

"Veterinary and anti-epizootic work has been intensified at central and local chicken and poultry farms," the North's official KCNA news agency said on March 7.

That report was just one in a series of North Korean state media reports that stressed the danger of the epidemic and described measures to prevent it.

Kim at the Unification Ministry said such reports had alerted South Korean officials to the possibility of an actual outbreak.

"In a socialist country like North Korea, they are not going to say, 'We have an outbreak in this country,'" Kim said.

South Korea confirmed in December an outbreak of a milder form of bird flu at a duck hatchery, although the virus type -- identified as H5N2 -- was different from the highly contagious H5N1 variety.

South Korea confirmed 19 cases of H5N1 strain at poultry farms between December 2003 and March 2004, resulting in a mass cull of poultry.

No infection in humans have been reported in South Korea, but the outbreak halted the country's modest poultry exports to Japan, Hong Kong and China.

Source: Reuters - 15th March 2005

5m Editor