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S.Korea Reports First Bird Flu Outbreak Since 2008

South Korea on Friday confirmed its first outbreak of bird flu for more than two years, with more than 100,000 birds slaughtered as authorities bid to contain the lethal virus.

Two poultry farms, one in the central city of Cheonan and the other in the southwestern city of Iksan, were confirmed to have been contaminated by the H5N1 virus, the agricultural ministry said.

It marked the first time since April 2008 that the country has been hit by avian influenza, it said.

"All the 10,700 ducks at the farm in Cheonan and 17,000 breeding chickens at the farm in Iksan have already been culled and buried, together with 92,000 chickens raised at nearby farms," the ministry said in a press statement.

Both farms have been placed under quarantine, with movements of vehicles and people restricted.

It comes after Seoul confirmed three cases of the virulent H5N1 bird flu strain from wild migratory birds that arrived in the country for the winter earlier in December.

Health authorities have stepped up inspections of wild birds and urged poultry businesses to take extra precautions such as erecting nets around their farms to keep out wild birds.

Yoo Man-Keun, a senior official in Cheonan City, said migrant birds were suspected of having transported the virus.

"Migrant birds are coming down to farms as they are unable to find food at their natural haunts," Yoo told journalists. "We've put up scarecrows to scare them away, but all to no avail."

South Korea has been hit by avian influenza three times, with the last outbreak in April 2008.

In 2008, South Korea had to cull more than eight million birds to curb the virus, resulting in damages estimated at 200 billion won (194 million dollars at the time).

In the country's 2003-2004 outbreak, 5.28 million birds were culled, while a 2006-2007 outbreak resulted in 2.8 million birds being destroyed.

Four people were confirmed to have been infected with the bird flu virus in late 2003 in South Korea but they showed few symptoms, health authorities said.

The avian influenza outbreak is likely to further strain the country's health system which has already been struggling to contain swine flu and foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) cases across the country.

A South Korean man has died from swine flu, becoming the country's first reported human death from the virus this winter, health officials said Thursday.

The 30-year-old man, who was taken to hospital after showing symptoms on Monday, died on Wednesday and tests showed he was infected with the A (H1N1) virus, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

As of Friday, a total of 72 FMD cases have been reported across the country since November 29, prompting the culling of more than 580,000 cloven-hoofed animals including cattle and pigs in the worst-ever such outbreak.

The agriculture ministry has estimated losses due to the FMD outbreak at 400 billion won (355 million dollars).

Source: Agence France Presse


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