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S.Korea to expand poultry culls in H5N1-hit areas

December 12, 2006

S.Korea to expand poultry culls in H5N1-hit areas

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea will widen the scope of poultry culls around farms infected with the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu, the agriculture ministry said on Tuesday, as it battled its third outbreak in less than three weeks. 

South Korea on Monday confirmed a new case of the highly pathogenic bird flu at a quail farm in North Cholla province, 170 km (100 miles) south of Seoul. 

The latest case, some 18 km from the original H5N1 outbreak in the same province, raised concerns that quarantine measures had failed despite a cull of 760,000 poultry near two infected farms. 

File photo shows chickens on display for sale at a chicken store in Seoul, November 26, 2006. South Korea will widen the scope of poultry culls around farms infected with the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu, the agriculture ministry said on Tuesday, as it battled its third outbreak in less than three weeks. (REUTERS/You Sung-Ho)
"We will expand the radius of areas for culling bird flu-infected poultry from the current 500 metres to 3 kilometres in a bid to prevent the spread of bird flu," the ministry said in a statement. The culling will affect more than 365,000 poultry. 

Bird flu remains essentially an animal disease, but it has infected nearly 260 people worldwide since late 2003, killing more than 150, according to the World Health Organisation. 

Since 2003, outbreaks have been confirmed in about 50 countries and territories. 

Scientists fear the virus could mutate into a form that can be passed easily between people, leading to a possible human pandemic that could kill millions. 

South Korea's agriculture ministry said there had been no reports to suggest infections of residents or quarantine officials at or around the infected farms. 

The three farms lie on a path for migratory birds that head south from Russia, Mongolia and Kazakhstan. 

Between December 2003 and March 2004, about 400,000 poultry at South Korean farms were infected by bird flu. 

During that outbreak, the country destroyed 5.3 million birds and subsequent testing in the United States indicated at least nine South Korean workers involved in the culling had been infected with the H5N1 virus. None developed major illnesses. 

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