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S.Korea Suspects North's Bird Flu Outbreak Extensive

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

SOUTH KOREA - A bird flu outbreak in North Korea is probably extensive, South Korean officials said on Tuesday, but Pyongyang has yet to request Seoul's help to contain the virus.

S.Korea Suspects North's Bird Flu Outbreak Extensive - SOUTH KOREA - A bird flu outbreak in North Korea is probably extensive, South Korean officials said on Tuesday, but Pyongyang has yet to request Seoul's help to contain the virus.

North Korea officially confirmed on Sunday an outbreak of bird flu at two chicken farms in the capital Pyongyang. It said hundreds of thousands of birds had been culled in the secretive state, which suffers from severe food shortages.

"We suspect that it has spread quite extensively looking from the way North Korea disclosed this," said Unification Ministry official Kim Chun-sik, who oversees exchanges with the North.

Other ministry officials said Seoul was ready to help and would like more details about the outbreak in order to tailor an assistance package.

South Korea's National Veterinary Research and Quarantine Service sent a message to its equivalent in the North with an offer of assistance and a request for information on the outbreak.

"What we are focusing on now is quarantine," Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hong-jae said by telephone.

The South Korean government has stepped up quarantine measures at border points with the North and also at poultry farms in northern Kyonggi province, which borders the North.

Migratory birds are being tracked for tests, a Kyonggi official said.

Shares in fisheries firms extended their rally in Seoul on Tuesday, after turning up sharply on Monday on news of the bird flu outbreak in the North.

Yonhap news agency reported a businessman who works closely with the North as saying the outbreak had spread to rural areas and poultry was not being sold in markets.

An official with the World Health Organization said on Monday the group had been contacted by Pyongyang about the outbreak and they would coordinate work on counter-measures.

The report on Sunday marked the first time the North has said it had a bird flu outbreak. Its official media said there were no human infections.

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

South Korea had 19 confirmed cases of the H5N1 strain between December 2003 and March 2004 but no human infections. (Additional reporting by Cho Mee-young)

Source: Reuters - 29th March 2005

5m Editor