December 16, 2003



South Korea Confirms Bird Flu Case


South Korean authorities confirmed a case of a highly contagious strain of bird flu at a chicken farm near Seoul on Monday. This disease is believed to pose a threat to human health as well.


"We have confirmed highly contagious avian influenza, known as H5N1, in chickens," an Agriculture Ministry official said.


Since early December about 21,000 chickens have died at the farm, which is about 80 km (50 miles) southeast of Seoul. As a precaution, the official said, authorities had now destroyed all the remaining 5,000 chickens there.


In rare instances strains of highly pathogenic avian influenza can be lethal to humans, as well as devastating for poultry. The H5N1 strain killed six people in Hong Kong in 1997 and 1998.


South Korea's poultry industry has 100 million chickens mainly for local consumption with little in the way of exports, official data showed.


Since 1996, South Korea has only reported cases of low pathogenic avian influenza.


The ministry said it was monitoring farms within a 10-km (six-mile) radius of the affected farm.


Earlier this year the Netherlands, the world's fourth-largest poultry exporter, slaughtered around 26 million birds at some 250 farms to contain a bird flu outbreak.


The disease also spread to neighboring Belgium and Germany, although on a lesser scale than in the Netherlands. All those three countries later resumed poultry exports.