Prevention the best medicineFoot-and-mouth disease is rampaging through livestock farms in Andong, North Gyeongsang, following earlier breakouts in Pocheon and Ganghwa Island, Gyeonggi Province. We are deeply worried about the possibility that the disease will spread rapidly to other farmlands due to our advanced transportation system.
Fortunately, local cattle in the Daegu and Cheongdo areas have tested negative, but it’s too early to feel totally comfortable. As FMD’s incubation period is six to 11 days, it’s almost impossible to tell how far the disease has spread. The most urgent job for now is to prevent more proliferation as well as to ward off other pathogens’ infiltration into farmlands.
The biggest problem is our porous quarantine system. Regardless of the Agriculture Ministry’s ardent efforts to operate a quarantine management system for livestock farms since June - and despite the fact that the period from September to November was dedicated to an augmented quarantine service - farmers didn’t faithfully report their overseas travels, and sanitization upon their arrival home was also not conducted effectively. That resulted in the recurrence of FMD just five months after the authorities declared the disease totally stamped out. We are concerned about the possibility that Korea will be stigmatized as a country where the disease runs rampant.
Another problem is found in livestock owners’ slack attitude toward preventive measures. The disease is assumed to have come from pathogens brought in by Chinese migrant workers or local farm owners who recently visited China or Vietnam. Southeast Asia is where the disease frequently occurs, and it has hit Vietnam, in particular, every year since 2001 with the O virus that is same as the one in Andong.
The price for being caught off guard is immense. So far, 88,000 heads of cattle and pigs were ordered to be slaughtered. FMD ranks at the top of the list of the 15 deadliest livestock diseases. Once the disease breaks out, exports of meat are immediately banned. If a country is pronounced safe from the disease, it still takes five to seven years to resume exports.
The National Assembly hastily trotted out a revised bill for the domestic animal infectious disease control law in an effort to allow punishment for those who brought in the FMD pathogens after travels overseas. Though it’s a belated measure, we welcome it. But prevention is the best medicine in the case of the livestock diseases too.