BEIJING – The Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs announced on Feb. 1 that 17,828 chickens were culled due to an outbreak of the highly-pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus.

The agency said in a statement that poultry in the Shuangqing District of Shaoyang City, which is part of the Hunan province in southern China, had been infected with the illness. The agency received a report from the China Animal Epidemic Disease Prevention and Control Center.

After receiving confirmation from the Chinese National Avian Influenza Reference Laboratory, the broiler chickens kept by the original farmer totaled 7,850 with 4,500 dead.  

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), H5N1 can be spread to humans, but the transmission is occasional. Most people who catch this flu have close contact with infected birds or contaminated areas. However, if the disease does mutate it would make human-to-human transmission easier. The mortality rate is about 60 percent according to the WHO.

Hunan province borders Hubei which is at the epicenter of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan. 

As of Feb. 3, 17,300 people in Asia were infected and more than 360 people have died due to the coronavirus.