SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea acknowledged an outbreak of bird flu for the first time, saying Sunday that hundreds of thousands of chickens were killed to prevent its spread, and the disease was not passed on to humans.
The outbreaks occurred at a “few chicken farms,” and “hundreds of thousands of infected chickens” were burned before burial, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported.
The short report said no breeders who work at the farms were known to have been infected.
The report did not say which strain of the virus had been discovered.
Earlier this month, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported that bird flu had broken out in the North, and South Korean officials said a trading company here delayed plans to import 40 tons of poultry from North Korea but declined to say why. Japan also banned poultry imports from the North after the report.
The North said last year it was strengthening quarantine measures against bird flu following the outbreak of the virus in Southeast Asian countries, but it had not previously acknowledged the disease was present in the country.
The deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu has spread through poultry farms in Southeast Asia since December 2003 and killed at least 48 people. Health officials fear it could mutate into a form more easily transmittable between humans that might result in a global pandemic killing millions.
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