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South Korea declares itself free of bird flu

world Updated: Aug 17, 2008 18:54 IST

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South Korea has declared itself free of bird flu after the country suffered its worst outbreak of the disease earlier this year, officials said on Sunday.

The agriculture ministry last week confirmed no bird flu outbreaks had been reported in South Korea for the past three months, which allows the country to declare itself free of the disease, they said.

South Korea formally informed the World Organization for Animal Health of its regaining the disease-free status as of August 15, the ministry said.

No confirmed case has been reported since May 15, when the quarantine measure was last taken against the May 12 outbreak in Seoul. Following tests on poultry farms nationwide all came negative for the virus, it said.

This year's outbreak that began on April 1 was the worst ever reported in South Korea with nearly 8.5 million birds culled and an estimated 264 billion won (254 million dollars) in losses, according to ministry data.

South Korea has been hit by bird flu outbreaks three times, including the two previous cases reported in 2003-2004 and 2006-2007.

However, no human is known to have contracted the disease even though the H5N1 strain found here has killed more than 240 people worldwide since late 2003.