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S. Korea reports new suspected cases of bird flu

Two new suspected bird flu cases have been reported this week, the government said Monday, as quarantine authorities stay on watch for any new signs after heavy traffic of people during the Lunar New Year holiday.

The additional cases were reported Sunday at a duck farm in Eumseong, North Chungcheong Province, and a chicken farm in Jeongeup, North Jeolla Province, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

With the two newest additions, the total number of suspected cases of avian influenza reported so far is 77. An H5N8 strain of bird flu has been confirmed in 40 cases, up from 27 on Saturday.

Ministry officials said the new suspected cases did not mean the animal disease was continuing to spread. The two new cases were from areas that are already under close government control, they said.

"The government believes the disease is mostly being reported in areas controlled by the government. We are seeing sporadic outbreaks, but the disease is well under control," Kwon Jae-han, the head of the ministry's livestock policy bureau, told a press briefing.

Over 2.6 million ducks and chickens have been slaughtered since the country reported its first suspected outbreak of AI on Jan. 16.

Health officials here have said the H5N8 strain of bird flu poses no immediate threats to humans, with no human infection of the strain reported so far. (Yonhap News)