Korea ups bird flu alert; foot-and-mouth spreads


SEOUL — South Korea, already battling a serious outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, has raised its bird flu alert level after detecting the H5N1 avian influenza virus at poultry farms in four provinces.

Asia’s fourth-largest economy has culled 10 percent of its cattle and pigs as it tries to contain the foot-and-mouth outbreak, triggering a spike in domestic beef and pork prices and exacerbating food inflation. The government on Tuesday announced plans to boost food supply to cope with rising prices ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday. South Korea raised its bird flu alert a notch from “caution” to “watch,” the agriculture ministry said in a statement late on Tuesday. “The ministry decided to raise the alert as the disease is spreading more quickly,” the statement said. There have been 34 suspected cases of bird flu in poultry, with 16 cases confirmed, the ministry said. South Korea has had no human cases of the high-severity bird flu strain. It has had three outbreaks of the virus at poultry farms in the past 10 years.