12/12/2006, 00.00
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New outbreak of bird flu in South Korea

This is the third outbreak in a month. All outbreaks occurred in areas close to each other in a region of intensive poultry breeding. More than one million birds have been culled in a bid to stop the outbreaks.

Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Hundreds of thousands of poultry birds have been culled in South Korea in a bid to contain the third outbreak of bird flu discovered in less than a month.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry yesterday confirmed an outbreak at a poultry farm in Gimje, around 262km south of Seoul. On 10 December, the farmer informed the provincial government that more than 1,000 quails had died within a few days whereupon quarantine and the slaughter of around 290,000 quails and 75,000 chickens was ordered.

The farm is located about 18km away from a poultry farm in Iksan, North Jeolla province, where the virus was discovered on 19 November. After the first two outbreaks in November in the Iksan area, a 10km-radius around the sites was quarantined and more than 770,000 poultry were culled.

Most poultry farms in the region are found in Iksan, where there are around 440 farms breeding 5.2 million chickens. In Gimje alone, there are 220 farms with 2.7 million birds. This makes stopping the outbreaks a matter of the utmost urgency although the poultry industry does not appear to have suffered negative repercussions yet.

Kim Young-jin, manager of a firm supplying meat to fried chicken restaurants, said: “Over the last weekend, our 1,800 stores nationwide sold 1.4 billion won (.5 million) worth of chickens. That is close to what we sold during a typical weekend before the bird flu outbreak.”

Since the H5 N1 virus returned to Asia at the end of 2003, there have been at least 154 certified victims. In South Korea, during the 2003 outbreak, around 5.3 million birds were culled.

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