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South Korean cases of avian influenza grow as millions of poultry culled

South Korean cases of bird flu have risen since last year and a total of 197 cases have been reported, according to Seoul on Friday. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE
South Korean cases of bird flu have risen since last year and a total of 197 cases have been reported, according to Seoul on Friday. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE

Feb. 19 (UPI) -- South Korea said it confirmed 25 new cases of avian influenza in the past week -- a sign cases have not stopped growing since last year.

Seoul's environmental and agriculture ministries said Friday that an H5N8 strain of bird flu was spreading nationwide, with the largest number of cases reported in Gyeonggi Province, which surrounds Seoul.

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The 25 cases that were reported from Feb. 11 to Thursday bring the total number of bird flu cases of various strains to 197 in the country, Yonhap reported. Highly pathogenic avian influenza, or H5N1, was detected in 144 out of the 197 cases, according to the report.

The cases reported this past week were found in Gangwon Province and central South Korea, Newsis reported. The disease was identified in dead birds and birds caught alive, including among goose, swan and heron species.

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The H5N8 strain of bird flu is highly pathogenic among birds but does not spread to humans.

The H5N1 virus has been known to spread from birds to humans. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, H5N1 viruses have led to more than 700 human infections since November 2003.

While the transmission rate is low and human-to-human transmissions are extremely rare, about 60% of patients have died, according to the CDC.

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South Korea has culled 28.6 million poultry to prevent the further spread of the disease, which spreads during the migration of birds.

Local authorities are tracking the movement of migratory birds from the southern city of Busan to Incheon and also to Toyama Prefecture in Japan, the Yonhap report said.

Jang Seong-hyun, head of avian flu response at the environmental ministry, said the public should refrain from entering migratory bird habitats and report any dead birds to South Korean quarantine authorities.

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