(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; UPDATES throughout)
SEOUL, Dec. 6 (Yonhap) — South Korea is looking into another suspected case of highly pathogenic avian influenza (AI) from a chicken farm in the south of Seoul, in yet another sign that the disease could be spreading quickly nationwide.
Local authorities are carrying out an investigation into the suspected case at an egg farm in Yeoju, 105 kilometers south of Seoul, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. The farm raises around 193,000 chickens.
The ministry said it may take up to three days to determine whether the suspected case is highly pathogenic.
On Saturday, South Korea confirmed its third case of highly pathogenic AI at a duck farm in Yeongam, 308 km south of Seoul.
The first farm-related case of this year came from Jeongeup, 290 km south of Seoul, on Nov. 28, followed by the second case in Sangju, 270 km southeast of Seoul, on Wednesday.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza is contagious and can cause severe illness and even death in poultry.
South Korea reported its first highly pathogenic AI case in 32 months in late October from Cheonan, 92 km south of Seoul, from wild birds.
Since then, the country has confirmed 15 cases from wild birds.
In a separate move, the country is also studying 12 samples gathered from major wild bird habitats since last week.