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REFILE-China's Inner Mongolia region culls 66,500 chickens after bird flu outbreak

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BEIJING, Aug 1 (Reuters) - China's Inner Mongolia region has culled 66,500 chickens following an outbreak of bird flu that has affected 35,000 birds, the Ministry of Agriculture said on Tuesday.

The H5N1 strain of the virus was confirmed at a hen farm in Tongliao city, which has 3 million people, and has killed 15,000 birds, the ministry said in a statement on its website.

The outbreak is now under control, the ministry said.

The last bird flu outbreak in March killed 134 birds at a duck farm in central Hubei province.

The most recent case is the first confirmed major bird flu outbreak among poultry after winter months and brings the total culled since October to more than 240,000 birds.

Additionally, the H7N9 strain of the virus has caused at least 281 deaths since October in China.

Live poultry markets were shut down in many provinces following human infections, forcing egg producers to keep their hens beyond their prime time, as demand also plunged amid public fears over bird flu.

Flocks are particularly vulnerable to avian flu during the winter months and outbreaks usually die down afterwards. (Reporting by Hallie Gu and Beijing Monitoring Desk, editing by David Evans)