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Suspected bird flu case found in S.Korea
Updated: 2004-12-22 16:40

A suspected case of the milder bird influenza virus has been found at a duck farm in Gwangju, some 330 kilometers south to Seoul, South Korean Yonhap News Agency quoted an official of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry as reporting on Wednesday.

The quarantine authorities found the H5N2 strain of avian influenza on Dec. 1 when they inspected the farm in the South Korean city, according to Kim Chang-seob, the director of the ministry's animal health division.

This marked the first time for the H5N2 virus, known to be lessvirulent than the H5N1 strain that swept through South Korea and other Asian countries and areas in late 2003 and early 2004, to appear in South Korea.

"We have a strict standard operating procedure for such developments and have ordered all 9,000 ducks at the farm to be destroyed even if the H5N2 is verified as a 'weaker' strain," saidKim Chang-seob.

He said the H5N2 strain has never spread to humans and must be differentiated from the H5N1 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) that hit the poultry raising industry of Asia last year.

He added that preliminary tests on eggs from the farm have indicated that the H5N2 has not mutated into a virulent variety. Kim said the final conclusive DNA test will be released Thursday and the results will be informed to its trading partners.

The chief veterinary officer said that a quarantine area has been set up around the infected farm to prevent possible spread and inspectors are checking nearby duck farms for possible contamination.

The South Korean government has conducted tough inspections of all duck and chicken farms since Nov. 1 and will continue to do sountil the end of February. This period is deemed as dangerous because migratory birds arrive in the country and spread disease in the period.

South Korea reported 19 cases of the HPAI from December 2003 to March 2004, but no South Korean people has been founded infected with such influenza up to now.

The local poultry raising industry and related chicken meat industry has suffered some 1 trillion won (946.9 million US dollars) loss because of the influenza.

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