Bird flu darkens the capital’s door

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Bird flu darkens the capital’s door

The highly pathogenic H5N6 avian influenza virus has arrived at Seoul’s doorstep, with the closest area affected being Yangju, Gyeonggi, 35 kilometers (21.7 miles) from the capital, according to local health authorities Wednesday.

On Sunday, a farmer in Yangju reported that at least 240 out of 133,392 chickens died on his farm.

Test results confirmed Tuesday that it was due to the H5N6 virus, the same virus that last week affected Haenam County, South Jeolla, and Eumseong County, North Chungcheong.

On Tuesday, a farmer in Pocheon, Gyeonggi, reported 65 chickens on his farm suddenly died, prompting government officials to investigate whether it was due to bird flu.

The results will be released today, while 240,000 chickens in nearby areas will be culled as part of a safety precaution.

Pocheon, located roughly 51 kilometers north of Seoul, has the largest chicken farms in the nation, constituting 20 percent of all chickens raised in Gyeonggi and 7 percent of all chickens nationwide.

The Animal Health Management Division of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs announced Wednesday that there is a very low chance that the virus can spread to humans, as it did in China, where 15 people were infected and nine have died since 2014.

“Migratory birds are most likely the cause of the spread,” said an official from the Gyeonggi provincial government.

Korea’s first case of the H5N6 strain of the virus was discovered on Oct. 28 in Cheonan, South Chungcheong, in the feces of migratory birds.

The same strain was found on Nov. 10 on the banks of the Mangyeong River in Iksan, North Jeolla.

In an all-out effort to contain the spread of the virus, the government has imposed a movement ban on poultry farmers and their vehicles within a 10 kilometers radius (6.21 miles) of sites where the virus has tested positive and will set up sterilizing posts within a 3 kilometers radius.

A total of 84 farms and 180,000 poultry will be under the watch.

In addition, the Gyeonggi government said it will deploy 2 billion won ($1.7 million) to prevent further spread of the disease.

BY JEON IK-JIN [kim.yuna1@joongang.co.kr]

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