H5N1 avian flu confirmed in 2 farms

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H5N1 avian flu confirmed in 2 farms

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Two poultry farms in South Chungcheong and North Jeolla were verified to have avian influenza A (H5N1), the government said yesterday.

According to the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, a duck farm in Cheonan, South Chungcheong, and a chicken farm in Iksan, North Jeolla, were confirmed to be infected with the highly pathogenic avian influenza.

Quarantine officials in North Jeolla have already slaughtered and buried about 10,000 ducks at the Cheonan farm and more than 90,000 chickens at the Iksan farm and nearby farm.

Quarantine cordons of a 3-kilometer (1.8-mile) radius have been set up around the two infected farms and labeled as dangerous, and areas within a 10-kilometer radius have been put on alert.

Lee Sang-gil, director of the Food Industry and Marketing Bureau of the Food Ministry, said, “[We will] not carry out further slaughtering but will step up monitoring since there are no more poultry farms within a 500-meter radius [except those farms that already went through the culling process].”

Nevertheless, there are concerns that the virus will spread. The two infected farms raise either breeding ducks or hens and have sold ducklings and chicks to other farms, so infected birds may have already been transported out of the area.

On top of that, health officials continue to detect more migratory birds infected with the virus in Chungcheong and Jeolla, raising more concerns about a nationwide spread.

Unlike foot-and-mouth disease, humans are not immune from avian influenza A (H5N1). The estimated number of confirmed patients of AI, according to the World Health Organization, was 447 from 2003 to last year. Of confirmed cases, 263 people died. However, there have been no cases of humans who have been infected with avian influenza in Korea.

Meanwhile, the Food Ministry also confirmed that cattle farms in Gyeongju and Yeongcheon in North Gyeonsang, in addition to a cattle farm in Namyangju, Gyeonggi, tested positive for foot-and-mouth disease yesterday.

To prevent the spread of foot-and-mouth disease and the avian influenza, Seoul Zoo will be closed from today to Jan. 10, the Seoul Metropolitan Government said yesterday.

“It would be a great loss for the country if foot-and-mouth disease spreads to the Seoul Zoo,” said Lee Won-hyo, the head of Seoul Zoo.

“I’m asking the public’s cooperation because Seoul Zoo looks after rare wild animals, and it would be difficult to see them again if the disease sweeps through the zoo.”

Seoul Zoo is home to 2,747 animals, and 1,600 of them can catch foot-and-mouth disease or avian influenza.

During the first ten days of January, access to the zoo will be restricted to zookeepers. The zookeepers will live as a group.

By Choi Hyun-chul, Kim Mi-ju [enational@joongang.co.kr]

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