Control foot-and-mouth diseaseAnother veterinary virus outbreak could be in the making as a cattle herd at farms in Boeun and Jeongeup in North Chungcheong had been confirmed with foot-and-mouth infection at a time when the country is still combating an epidemic of avian influenza that led to the slaughter of 33 million chickens. The government ordered a temporary migration ban on 220,000 livestock farms across the country to conduct emergency checkups.
The outbreak of foot-and-mouth has been caused by poor compliance with vaccination rules. The government ensured safety against the virus infecting hoofed animals, claiming that 97.8 percent of the cattle and 75.7 percent of pigs nationwide have maintained high levels of antibodies as of the end of last year.
But tests showed the antibody rate in the farm in Boeun affected with the infectious disease was 19 percent and lower at 5 percent in Jeongeup. The government has been lax in quarantine surveillance, naively believing in falsely reported data.
The government blamed farms for moral hazard as they skipped vaccinations due to the cost and the perception that vaccines caused side effects like a reduction in milk yield or miscarriages. Farms would have to share the liability if they intentionally avoided vaccinating their livestock for selfish reasons.
But authorities must share the responsibility for failing to educate farmers about the effects and correct uses of vaccines. Vaccines should be kept at cold temperature, but vaccination should be done at 18 degrees Celsius (64 degrees Fahrenheit), slightly below room temperature. If the shots are given on cold days, the effects may be critically diminished. Farms are liable for neglecting vaccinations and authorities for lax supervision.
The agriculture ministry will be vaccinating 3 million cattle across the nation within the week. It must do what it can to prevent the spread.
Authorities are unclear how the virus hit Korean farms this time. They must investigate the cause and fight outbreaks of winter viruses.
Foot-and-mouth disease on top of bird flu could further hurt the domestic livestock and food industry. The agriculture ministry that failed to prevent the spread of avian influenza must do its best to combat the foot-and-mouth disease. The acting president should spearhead the campaign so that the government no longer raises doubts about its negligence as a result of the void in leadership.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 8, Page 30