Foot-and-mouth outbreak tied to vaccinations

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Foot-and-mouth outbreak tied to vaccinations

As foot-and-mouth disease spreads, it has become clear that the affected farms failed to properly vaccinate their livestock.

The government announced it will vaccinate all 3 million cattle raised nationwide by Thursday.

After taking blood samples of 20 cattle at a farm in Jeongeup, North Jeolla, that reported an outbreak, only a single cow proved positive for antibodies to the disease - which is proof of vaccination.

That 5 percent antibody rate was even lower than the 19 percent rate at the farm in Boeun, North Chungcheong, where the first foot-and-mouth disease case was reported Sunday. Only four of its 21 cattle tested positive for antibodies.

“In the case of the Jeongeup farm, on paper it said the last vaccination was last Aug. 26,” said a ministry official. “But the fact that the antibodies were found in only 5 percent of the cattle means that the vaccination wasn’t properly done.”

Since a foot-and-mouth outbreak in late 2010 and 2011 that resulted in the burial of 3.5 million livestock and economic losses estimated at 3 trillion won, it has been required by law for farms with more than 50 cattle to vaccinate them. A first vaccination has to be made within the first two month of a calf’s life and another shot is required within two weeks. Then the cattle are vaccinated every six to seven months.

Farms that fail to comply will face fines of 10 million won ($8,720) and any compensation by the government for culls will be cut.

As of last year according to the government report, 97.5 percent of cattle that were vaccinated formed antibodies while that ratio for pigs was 75.7 percent. A total of 27,342 cattle from 6,905 farms received injections. Citing the World Organization for Animal Health, when the antibody ratio is over 80 percent, a good defense against foot-and-mouth disease is established.

But some farms have been reluctant to use of vaccines because of rumors of side effects such as a sharp reduction of milk produced from dairy cows due to miscarriages.

Last year saw 69 cases in which farms were fined for failing to vaccinate their livestock. Total fines amounted to 86.3 million won.

There is also the possibility that the vaccinations failed as the result of mishandling of the storage of the vaccines or improper administrations. The vaccines are injected by the farmers’ themselves, not vets.

“Usually the vaccine has been put in refrigeration where the temperature is kept at 18 degrees Celsius,” said a ministry official. “But according to our studies, the two farms [that came out positive] failed to do so.”

The government also admitted to lax checks on the vaccination of cattle compared to pigs.

On Tuesday the Ministry of Public Safety and Security announced that the government will vaccinate all 3 million cattle raised in the country this week, which is expected to cost 5.3 billion won. Additionally the government decided to include foot-and-mouth disease with the avian influenza management team.

BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]

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