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South Korean avian flu epidemic reaches Seoul

South Korea said Thursday it has culled 14.9 million birds in the wake of an avian flu epidemic first reported in November. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE
South Korea said Thursday it has culled 14.9 million birds in the wake of an avian flu epidemic first reported in November. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE

Jan. 7 (UPI) -- South Korean authorities are on high alert after the discovery of a dead bird that tested positive for avian influenza.

The city of Seoul's Gangbuk-gu district said Thursday a local resident found the bird in the Uicheon Stream on Dec. 26. The sample was transferred to the country's Public Health and Environment Research Institute, then to the country's wildlife agency. Test results on Tuesday came back positive, prompting the district to take action, News 1 and Newsis reported.

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The district said it has restricted access to the waterway where the bird was found, and has disinfected the public space. Avian influenza is highly pathogenic among birds but does not spread to humans.

South Korea has been coping with bird flu outbreaks in the past several years.

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On Thursday, Seoul's agriculture ministry said 14.9 million poultry were culled after the first case was reported in late November, according to Yonhap. The statement comes after the country reported a total of 47 highly pathogenic bird flu cases this winter.

South Korea's policy requires the culling of all domesticated poultry within a 1.9-mile radius of an infection. On Wednesday, a H5N8 strain of bird flu was reportedly identified at a duck farm in an area about 80 miles south of Seoul. Other cases have been found at a farm about 240 miles south of Seoul, where 20,000 ducks were being raised, according to Yonhap.

In Seoul, Gangbuk-gu district chief Park Gyeom-su told News 1 he plans to "strengthen monitoring of poultry-raising households" and enforce anti-epidemic measures.

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In 2019, South Korea battled an epidemic of African swine fever, after the disease among pig species was first reported in China then North Korea.

North Korea at the time declined to cooperate on anti-epidemic measures.

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