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South Korea lifts alert against bird flu to highest level

Staff Writer |
South Korea intensified its watch against avian influenza to the highest level as the animal disease is spreading rapidly throughout the nation.

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The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs said that a government panel decided to raise the watch level from "alert" to "serious," the highest vigilance in the country's disease control system.

As a result, the health authorities are entitled to close any chicken farm or cote if necessary, added the ministry.

The move came as more than 10 million chickens and ducks have been culled since the first case of bird flu was reported on Nov. 16 at a chicken farm in Haenam, 423 kilometers south of Seoul.

The infections were found to be the highly pathogenic H5N6 strain of the flu, a new type of virus that was first detected in the country, with the pace of spread being unprecedentedly fast.

The quarantine authorities said migratory birds are a source of the highly contagious H5N6 virus in the outbreak here as there have been no reports of infections through the movement of people or livestock.

The latest outbreak came nearly seven months after the last infection was reported on the western outskirts of Seoul on April 5. The country struggled with the poultry disease for nearly two years from January 2014 to November 2015.

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