The Republic of Korea (RoK) on December 31 officially confirmed the outbreak of bird flu at two poultry farms in the central and southwestern parts of the country.

The RoK Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said samples from a chicken farm in Iksan, North Jeolla province, and a duck farm in Cheonan, South Chungcheong province, tested positive for the H5N1 bird flu virus.

Both farms have been placed under quarantine, with movements of vehicles and people restricted.

The new outbreaks came two weeks after Seoul confirmed three cases of the virulent H5N1 bird flu
strain from wild migratory birds that arrived in the country for the winter
earlier in the month.

Health authorities have urged poultry businesses to take extra precautions such as erecting nets around their farms to keep out wild birds.

The RoK has been hit by avian influenza three times, with the last
epidemic in April 2008, during which the country had to cull more than eight million birds to curb the virus, resulting in damages estimated at about 264 billion KEW (219 million USD at the time).

The avian influenza outbreak is likely to further strain the country's husbandry sector which has already been struggling to contain foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) cases across the country./.