(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; UPDATES throughout; ADDS photo)
By Kang Yoon-seung
SEOUL, Dec. 8 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Tuesday confirmed this year's fifth case of highly pathogenic bird flu linked to poultry farms, as authorities warned of possible nationwide spread of the disease.
The latest case came from a quail farm in Eumseong, about 130 kilometers south of Seoul, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs. The farm was raising 726,000 birds.
The local government plans to destroy birds within a 3-kilometer radius of the infected farm in the North Chungheong Province county.
Authorities have mandated a 48-hour standstill on all poultry farms in the province since Monday.
"With sources of infection spreading around wintering sites of migratory birds all over the country, there is a high risk of avian influenza (AI) outbreak if farms do not take sufficient disinfection and prevention measures," a ministry official said.
The country's first farm-related case of this year came from Jeongeup, 290 kilometers south of Seoul, on Nov. 28, followed by a second case in Sangju, 270 kilometers southeast of the capital city last week.
The third confirmed case was from a duck farm in Yeongam, 308 kilometers south of Seoul, on Saturday. An egg farm from Yeoju, 105 kilometers south of Seoul reported the fourth case on the previous day.
Earlier on Tuesday, the ministry said it was investigating another quail farm located 10 kilometers from the fourth infected farm, along with a duck farm in Naju, 355 kilometers south of Seoul.
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.
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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