Photographer: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

South Korea Bird Flu Alert Raised to Maximum as Virus Spreads

  • Alert raised to ‘serious,’ highest on its four-scale system
  • More than 12 million birds culled in latest outbreak

South Korea raised its bird flu alert to “serious,” the first time it’s used its highest warning level as the highly pathogenic disease spreads across the country’s poultry farms.

The nation tightened quarantine measures to restrict the movement of stock breeders to stop the spread of the virus, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs said Friday in an emailed statement.

Authorities have culled about 12.3 million birds at 278 poultry farms, and plan to destroy another 4.3 million birds, the ministry said. That would represent about 10 percent of the national flock of 165.3 million birds estimated as of Sept. 1 by Statistics Korea.

Countries including Japan, Germany and France have also confirmed cases of H5N6, while China, which also reported an outbreak, last month halted poultry imports from bird-flu hit countries. The last time South Korean farmers were hit with avian influenza in 2014, poultry demand tumbled as more than 19 million birds were culled.

For more on what bird flu can mean for humans and livestock, click here

The H5N6 strain of avian influenza has been confirmed at 162 farms in South Korea after the outbreak was detected in November. The disease was probably brought to the country by wild birds from other nations including China, the agriculture ministry said last month. The new alert level is the highest on its four-scale warning system, and there have not been any reported cases of H5N6 in people in South Korea.

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