[EDITORIALS]Bad time for pigs and for us

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[EDITORIALS]Bad time for pigs and for us

Livestock farms are on high alert after a suspected outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in hogs on Friday in Anseong, Gyeonggi province.

The situation hits us just less than a month before the opening of the World Cup finals, and drops in tourist arrivals and meat consumption are expected to follow. The timing is also unfortunate, because exports of Jeju-grown pigs to Japan have just resumed after Korea was declared free of the disease following an outbreak two years ago.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has quarantined a circle of 20 kilometers around the farm where the outbreak may have taken place. Nearby livestock markets and slaughterhouses have also been shut down. Cooperation from local residents is the most important part of efforts to contain the threat, and we understand that it involves sacrifice on their part.

The primary responsibility falls on local farmers, but there may also be a hole in the epidemic control system for livestock animals. The entire region of Asia is vulnerable to such epidemics; China and Japan have had their share of the disease in recent years. The outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease two years ago after 66 years of dormancy means that further outbreaks are very possible. The disease strikes hoofed animals such as cattle and pigs, and the fatality rate of infected animals is over 50 percent. Economic damage from the epidemic can also be enormous. In the three years after a 1997 outbreak in Taiwan, 180,000 people lost their jobs and monetary damage was 42 trillion won ($32.4 billion). Losses from the outbreak here two years ago were estimated at 300 billion won.

A quick response is essential. It is worrisome that 60 hogs were shipped to a nearby slaughterhouse 10 days ago. The government must put quarantine and disinfection measures in place quickly to check the disease. It must also try to find out why the outbreak occurred. Measures to support livestock farms affected by an expected sharp drop in exports and consumption should be introduced.

The public should stay calm; humans are not susceptible, and no harm is known to result from eating the meat of infected animals.
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