Japan has halted imports of South Korean poultry due to a suspected bird flu outbreak that has killed around 6,000 chickens and prompted authorities to cull thousands more, the top government spokesman said Friday.
Japan imported 289 metric tons of chicken meat from South Korea in 2005, according to the Japan External Trade Organization.
Most bird flu viruses are not harmful to humans, but South Korea’s agriculture ministry hoped to confirm this weekend whether the suspected outbreak was caused by the H5N1 strain, which can be deadly to people.
The discovery was made Wednesday in the province of Jeolla, according to a statement from the agriculture ministry. It said 6,000 chickens in the area had died, and 6,000 more will be killed to prevent the virus from spreading.
South Korea culled 5.3 million birds during the last known bird flu outbreak in 2003.
The H5N1 virus began ravaging Asian poultry stocks in late 2003 and has killed at least 153 people worldwide.