Czech authorities will start slaughtering more than 70,000 birds Thursday after bird flu was detected on poultry farms in the central Czech Republic.

A spokesman for the state veterinary office said Wednesday the deadly H5N1 strain was found on farms east of the Bohemia region, close to farms where the virus was found in late June.

Authorities have set up an exclusion zone around the affected areas.

People can catch H5N1 bird flu only through contact with sick birds. But experts fear the virus could mutate into a transmittable human form and cause a global pandemic.

Bird flu has killed 192 people since 2003, mostly in Asia.

Some information for this report provided by AFP and Reuters.