April 22, 2008 / 1:02 AM / 9 years ago

South Korea checks soldier for bird flu infection

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea is testing to see if one of the workers taking part in a mass cull of poultry infected with bird flu may have become infected with the deadly virus, the health ministry said on Tuesday.

The ministry said it would take about one to three weeks to confirm if the soldier, said to be 22-years old by local media, had been infected with the H5N1 strain of bird flu.

"The soldier's symptoms are consistent with that of suspected AI (avian influenza) patients, according to World Health Organisation standards, but the clinical symptoms also resemble bacterial pneumonia so we are on a close watch," the ministry said in a statement.

The soldier, who is being treated in a quarantine ward, had a high fever and respiratory problems. He has shown signs of improvement after being treated with antibiotics, it said.

On Monday, South Korea's farm ministry said it planned to cull a record 5.3 million birds as it announced its 17th case of bird flu in three weeks, in what has become the country's fastest and biggest outbreak of avian influenza.

No human deaths from the disease have been reported so far from the country.

Some 240 human deaths have been reported globally from the H5N1 strain and 381 confirmed cases of infection since 2003, according to World Health Organisation data.

Reporting by Jon Herskovitz and Lee Jiyeon; Editing by Keiron Henderson

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