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South Korea halts US poultry imports because of bird flu

SEOUL -- South Korea has suspended imports of U.S. poultry and poultry products because of an outbreak of bird flu in the U.S., the Agriculture Ministry said in a statement on Dec. 21.

SEOUL -- South Korea has suspended imports of U.S. poultry and poultry products because of an outbreak of bird flu in the U.S., the Agriculture Ministry said in a statement on Dec. 21.

The suspension comes as South Korea is struggling to contain its own outbreak of bird flu in birds.

"This import suspension is a quarantine measure to prevent the HPAI virus from entering the country," the ministry statement says, referring to highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus.

The ministry says 18 countries including South Korea had been hit by the HPAI virus this year. South Korea has had no human cases.

Avian flu is an infectious viral disease of birds. Most bird flu viruses do not infect humans, but some have caused serious infections in humans.

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Two strains of avian influenza -- H5N2 and H5N8 -- have been confirmed in wild birds in Washington state, near the U.S. border with Canada, but there was no immediate cause for public health concerns, U.S. agriculture officials say.

Neither virus has been found in U.S. commercial poultry.

South Korea's imports from the U.S. in the first 11 months of the year included 63,245 metric tons of poultry meat and 264,000 chicks, according to ministry data.

The ministry says the import suspension would not cause a shortage as domestic poultry meat supply is projected to rise by 17.5 percent to 67,000 metric tons this month from a year earlier on top of 9,000 metric tons in inventory.

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