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Authorities open probe into possible bird flu in the wild

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

SEOUL, Jan. 18 (Yonhap) -- Health authorities opened an investigation Saturday to determine what killed about 1,000 ducks in a southern county recently hit by an outbreak of avian influenza (AI).

The Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency found the flock of migratory birds dead in a reservoir in North Jeolla Province a day earlier and began an investigation to confirm a possible link to AI, according to the provincial government.

The investigation comes after bird flu was confirmed in thousands of ducks at a duck farm in Gochang, a nearby village in the same province.

It was the first case of AI since May 2011 in South Korea. More than 3 million poultry were slaughtered at the time in connection with the virus.

If AI is confirmed, it would be the first case of the virus in migratory birds in South Korea, authorities said, adding that such a result would have major ramifications.

Another flock of farm ducks is likely to have been infected with a highly virulent strain of the bird flu in the same region, the agriculture ministry also said, adding that it is investigating for a possible link to the other cases.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs ordered a cull of some 6,500 farm ducks in North Jeolla Province's Buan village as part of preventive measures, a ministry official said.

"An investigation is under way to find a possible connection among the infection cases in Gochang and Buan farms and in the wild," the official said, hinting at the possibility that the AI-infected wild ducks spread the virus while flying over duck farms in the region.

The ministry will set up some 150 disinfection and quarantine posts in the region to prevent further infection, the official said.

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