(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; UPDATES throughout)
By Kang Yoon-seung
SEOUL, Dec. 8 (Yonhap) -- South Korea said it is investigating two suspected cases of highly pathogenic bird flu from poultry farms, casting concerns over possible nationwide spread of the illness.
The latest suspected case came from a quail farm in Yeoju, 105 kilometers south of Seoul, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs.
An egg farm from the same town reported the country's fourth highly pathogenic avian influenza (AI) the previous day.
The quail farm is estimated to be raising some 110,000 birds, located around 10 kilometers from the egg farm.
It will take up to three days to determine whether the suspected case is also highly pathogenic.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza is contagious and can cause severe illness and even death in poultry.
Four poultry farms have reported highly pathogenic cases, with another case under investigation at a quail farm located in Eumseong, 131 kilometers south of Seoul.
The first farm-related case of this year came from Jeongeup, 290 km south of Seoul, on Nov. 28, followed by a second case in Sangju, 270 km southeast of the capital city, on Wednesday.
The third confirmed case was from a duck farm in Yeongam, 308 kilometers south of Seoul, on Saturday.
In a separate announcement, local authorities said they have found four additional suspected cases among wild birds in the provinces of Gyeonggi, South Chungcheong, South Jeolla and North Gyeongsang, indicating that farms nationwide are vulnerable to bird flu infection.
South Korea reported its first highly pathogenic AI case in 32 months in late October from Cheonan, 92 kilometers south of Seoul, from wild birds.
Since then, a whopping 19 highly pathogenic AI cases have been found from wild bird habitats across the country.
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