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S. Korea tracking migratory birds for avian flu


SEJONG, Jan. 22 (Yonhap) -- No new cases of suspected bird flu have been detected since Tuesday, while quarantine officials are tracking the movement of migratory birds that may be spreading the virus, the government said Wednesday.

"No suspected outbreak of avian influenza (AI) has been filed since the last case reported yesterday," Kwon Jae-han, an official at the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, said at a press briefing.

The number of confirmed AI cases had come to eight as of early Wednesday, with the highly pathogenic H5N8 strain of the virus found in five of them, according to the ministry official. Tests are under way in six other suspected cases.

Ongoing quarantine efforts are largely aimed at preventing the spread of the animal disease via humans or vehicles, Kwon said.

The highly pathogenic strain of bird flu was discovered in a group of migratory ducks found dead last week at a reservoir near affected farms in North Jeolla Province, and authorities believe they may have been the carriers of the virus.

Additional tests are under way to verify possible infection of other migratory birds throughout the country after groups of dead wild geese and ducks were discovered in other areas, including the southern resort island of Jeju.

"The government will continue to do its utmost, but there clearly is a limit to monitoring the movement of migratory birds," Kwon told reporters.

"Still, the key point of our quarantine efforts is to prevent the flow of any infection source into poultry farms," he said, adding the bird virus spreads only through direct contact.

As a precautionary measure, the government decided to destroy ducks at all poultry farms within 3 kilometers of infected farms.

So far, some 270,000 ducks and chickens have been slaughtered with another 140,000 set to be culled, Kwon said.

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