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South Korea culls 33 million poultry amid worst bird flu outbreak

Seoul: Facing its worst avian influenza outbreak, South Korea has culled over 33 million poultry since the first reported case last November, officials said on Saturday, while observers noted local resources to deal with the deadliest outbreak may have already been stretched too thin.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, the country has culled 33.12 million animals till Friday. The number is already more than double the previous record of 13.96 million killed in a 2014 outbreak, Yonhap news agency reported.

The first case in the latest outbreak was reported at a chicken farm in Haenam, about 420 km south of Seoul, on November 16. It was caused by the highly pathogenic H5N6 bird flu strain.

After ravaging some 340 poultry farms nationwide, the outbreak appeared to subside around early February. But it resurfaced on Monday at a poultry farm in Gimje, North Jeolla province, some 260 kilometers southwest of Seoul.

The latest avian influenza case came as the country was also grappling with the spread of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), first reported on February 5 in North Chungcheong province`s Boeun, some 180 km south of Seoul.

More FMD cases were later reported at farms in Jeongeup, located 260 km south of Seoul in North Jeolla province, and in Yeoncheon, 62 km north of Seoul and near the border with North Korea.

So far, 1,093 cattle from 14 farms have been slaughtered as of Friday, according to the Agriculture Ministry. The ministry has begun vaccinating some 2.83 million cattle since Wednesday after evidence suggested that some haven`t properly developed antibodies.

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