Year-round quarantine neededLivestock woes have been heightened after avian influenza was discovered at a duck farm in South Jeolla on the heels of the confirmation of a foot-and-mouth disease breakout at a hog farm in North Gyeongsang.
The latest outbreak of livestock diseases caught quarantine authorities off guard as foot-and-mouth and bird flu cases are normally found in the winter. It is the first time foot-and-mouth disease has hit Korea in the summer.
Outbreaks of the disease, which affects cloven-hoofed animals, usually come in winter and are contained by the time the weather warms. Avian influenza was previously suspected of being carried in by migratory birds in the winter.
The arrival of these diseases in summertime raises calls for new studies and around-the-year quarantines against foot-and-mouth disease and bird flu.
Korea may lose its position as a foot-and-mouth disease-free country from the World Organization for Animal Health that the country just regained in May before the infection reappeared for the first time in three years. Damages to farms from massive culling and hikes in meat prices could follow.
Authorities should act fast to contain the spread so that we do not see a repeat of the crisis in 2011 when spending to combat the foot-and-mouth outbreak reached 4 trillion won ($3.89 billion).
Vaccinations have been proven effective against the disease. The government has been strict in inoculations since the nightmarish experience three years ago. But it has been lenient during the warm season. Authorities must toughen vaccination regulations and plan well ahead to make sure there are enough supplies to last throughout the year.
The recent discovery underscores that livestock diseases can break out regardless of the season. The agriculture ministry should join forces with other public offices to enact stronger quarantine measures such as regulating visits to livestock farms from people who have been overseas and increased examinations at airports and ports.
Health authorities also should study if there are any unfamiliar traces or signs in the latest viruses. Both the central government and local offices must work closely on the supervision and administration of the hygienic condition, vaccination and transport of livestock.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 28, Page 30