Foot-and-mouth disease, avian flu strain authorities

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Foot-and-mouth disease, avian flu strain authorities

Quarantine authorities are scrambling to prevent the further spread of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and avian influenza (AI) a week before the Lunar New Year, one of the country’s biggest holidays that prompts mass travel.

Those efforts, however, have appeared to have little effect, with both viruses continuing to advance.

Hongseong County, South Chungcheong, the country’s largest pig-breeding region, has confirmed two outbreaks of FMD since Friday, the first in four years. After animals at one farm tested positive on Friday, FMD was confirmed at another site on Monday just 20 meters (65 feet) away.

There are currently 305 pig farms breeding a total of 494,000 pigs in Hongseong County. The last time the county saw an outbreak of the disease was in February 2011, when more than 50,000 pigs from 127 farms were culled, with damage adding up to 10.76 billion won ($9.82 million).

“We put all our efforts into keeping the area disease-free, but there was another infection,” said Lee Byeong-ok, 60, who heads the village where the disease broke out. “We’re worried there could be another outbreak like the one four years ago.”

Quarantine authorities are also trying to prevent FMD from spreading to farms raising hongseong hanu, or native Korean cattle. About 2,600 such farms in the county breed 54,000 cows. So far, there have been no confirmed reports, nor were any cattle farms infected in 2011.

Foot-and-mouth disease was also confirmed in Gangwon, the first confirmation of FMD since Dec. 3, in Jincheon County, North Chungcheong. The province’s quarantine authorities suspect the virus spread from an infected farm in Sejong City that continued to sell piglets during lock down.

The Gangwon Provincial Office said on Monday that it had culled 610 pigs after confirming FMD at a farm in Cheolwon County. It added that the owner of the site had bought 260 animals from Sejong City on Saturday.

At that time, the farm in Sejong City was prohibited from selling or moving its pigs due to an earlier FMD outbreak at a nearby farm. The owner of the farm in Sejong allegedly sold the pigs to four farms, including the one in Cheolwon County.

FMD was confirmed at the farm in Sejong City later Saturday.

Authorities are currently investigating the farm owner in Sejong City and suspect that he knowingly sold the pigs. The animals are believed to have been showing FMD symptoms on Friday. Gangwon Provincial Office is also considering filing for compensation against the farm’s owner in Sejong.

Amid the increase in the number of FMD-infected farms, and the spread of avian flu to the capital city - the first time since AI was confirmed in Korea - local authorities are gearing up to keep the diseases from spreading.

The South Gyeongsang Provincial Office recently announced that it would keep its quarantine headquarters open 24 hours a day during the holiday and would heighten its monitoring of local farms and migratory bird habitats.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government is also inspecting ducks and geese bred in the city. It lifted a lock down on chickens on Tuesday after none were found to be infected by AI.

BY KIM BONG-MOON [bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]




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