South Korean officials say North Korea as asked Seoul for help in combating a bird flu outbreak in the Communist country.

South Korea's Unification ministry said the North asked for quarantine equipment and medicine and expressed gratitude for the South's offer of help in a telephone message today (Friday).

The North said in the message that it has slaughtered more than two-hundred thousand chickens since the outbreak was discovered on February 25th. The message said the birds were infected with the H7 strain of avian flu, not the deadly H5N1 strain that has killed 50 people since in Asia since 2003.

The North suspects the infection might have been caused by migratory birds originating in other countries.

The impoverished North also requested international help Thursday.

A global animal health organization says the bird flu outbreak that has killed 50 people in Asia since 2003 could spread to other parts of the world.

World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) Director Bernard Vallat made this statement Thursday at a conference in Paris that also included officials from the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO).

The French news agency AFP quotes Mr. Vallat as saying North Korea, which recently reported its own bird flu cases, officially asked his agency for help.

A WHO official (Francois-Xavier Meslin) says 79 human cases of bird flu have been reported in Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia, with a mortality rate of 62 percent.