Bird flu spreading in South Korea

A bird flu epidemic in South Korea is spreading nationwide even as authorities slaughtered thousands of ducks and chickens and disinfected breeding farms.

    Authorities have slaughtered 500,000 ducks and chickens

    Fresh cases of avian influenza were found in duck breeding farms in the South Cholla province, home to half of South Korea's eight-million


    Since the first bird flu case was detected at a farm 80km southeast of Seoul, cases have been confirmed at eight more poultry farms

    across South Korea.

    Agriculture ministry authorities said about half of the target of one million chickens and ducks had been slaughtered and buried.

    "We will complete the slaughter today or tomorrow," Kim Dal-joong, senior agriculture ministry official, told reporters on Tuesday.

    The ministry said in a statement that 13 suspected cases were being tested, including seven new overnight reports.

    Authorities are disinfecting chicken farms to protect the country's 100 million chickens.

    The government also sprayed zoos to protect rare

    birds from the avian flu.

    Farmers have been told to stay away from places where migratory birds gather because wild fowl are one suspected source of the


    Test results awaited

    The government is awaiting test results from the US to determine if the latest virus is similar to the H5N1 variant of avian influenza that

    killed six people in Hong Kong in 1997 and 1998.

    In rare cases, bird flu is lethal to humans

    Meanwhile, consumers have been avoiding duck and chicken - ignoring exhortations by government officials who have been eating poultry dishes on television almost every day.

    "Like most bird flu types, this does not seem to affect humans," Kim Moon-shik, director general at National Institute
    of Health, said.

    Kim said almost 1000 people in the affected areas were tested but no one showed symptoms of the disease.

    In rare cases, bird flu is lethal to humans, with a virus incubation period of four to five days.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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