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2008/04/11 11:44 KST
Bird flu spreading through southwestern S. Korea

   SEOUL, April 11 (Yonhap) -- Bird flu outbreaks that started killing chickens and ducks in late March have spread through the southwestern part of South Korea despite intensified quarantine efforts, the government said Friday.

   The Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said suspected outbreaks of avian influenza have been discovered in Naju, about 355 kilometers south of Seoul.

   It was the second discovery in the region after authorities found suspected cases in Yeongam, 25 kilometers south of Naju, earlier in the week.

   The ministry said three duck farms in Naju may have been hit by bird flu, and that more detailed tests are needed to ascertain the exact cause and to confirm if a virulent strain is the cause of the deaths.

   The first outbreaks occurred in areas about 100 kilometers north of Naju, with several confirmed and suspected cases in Gimje and Jeongeup.

   The ministry said there are now 25 confirmed and suspected cases of bird flu, with officials scrambling to cull and bury birds to prevent further contamination.

   "As a precautionary measure, all birds within a 10 kilometer radius of Gimje and Jeongeup farms are to be destroyed," a quarantine official said. He added similar steps are to be taken for ducks and chickens within 3 kilometers of Yeongam.

   He said the decision will result in over 2.36 million birds being culled in these regions. The animal expert, however, said that concerns of another outbreak in Sunchang, 364 kilometers south of Seoul, arose from other causes.

   South Korean health authorities, meanwhile, said a person who reported having symptoms similar to bird flu during the week tested negative.

   The Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention said the person who had taken samples for analysis from areas of bird flu outbreaks is already feeling better and has been released from observation. It said polymerase chain reaction tests carried out Thursday showed he was suffering from human flu and not a mutated form of the virus that has caused human deaths in the past.