Foot and mouth spreading far, fast

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Foot and mouth spreading far, fast

An eighth case of foot-and-mouth disease was confirmed more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the origin of the latest outbreak, raising the possibility of a nationwide outbreak.

The Agriculture Ministry said ten pigs from a farm in Chungju, North Chungcheong, tested positive for the virus based on the blood type O, the same type as in seven other clusters this month.

The government has been working hard to contain this month’s outbreak within Ganghwa and its neighboring Gimpo area on the west coast, the sites of the first seven cases.

The government raised the alert level to red, the highest in its four-level system. It was the first time the red level was used since the foot-and-mouth disease alert system was adopted in 2004.

The Chungju farm, raising 1,000 hogs, is about 136 kilometers away from Ganghwa and neighboring Gimpo areas.

Even more troubling, hogs release more of the virus into the air than other animals by a factor of anywhere from 100 to 3,000 times, according to Agriculture Ministry officials.

“Chungju is a major transportation hub right in the middle of the country, and the virus in hogs can spread at a far greater pace than in other animals,” said one ministry official who declined to be named. “We will have all livestock within three kilometers of the [Chungju] farm culled.”

Nearly 12,600 cows, hogs, goats and other livestock in 94 neighboring farms will be slaughtered. Investigators have not learned how the virus traveled more than 100 kilometers.

Another cow from a farm in Ganghwa also tested positive for the virus, pushing the total number of cases this month to eight.

An additional 132 animals in 69 farms around the Ganghwa farm will also be slaughtered, putting the total number of livestock to be culled to more than 42,600 as of yesterday.

Compensation to farms with animals culled is currently estimated at around 40 billion won ($36 million).

During the worst foot-and-mouth disease outbreak that took place in Anseong and Yongin in Gyeonggi in 2002, more than 161,000 animals were slaughtered, costing the government 53 billion won.

The rapid pace of the outbreak is increasingly unnerving government officials. Prime Minister Chung Un-chan held an emergency meeting with senior government officials to discuss how to secure enough funds for compensation to the farmers.

“We expect a very serious situation to take place if the outbreak isn’t contained early,” Chung said in a statement.

By Jung Ha-won []
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