Foot-and-mouth fight goes into a higher gear

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Foot-and-mouth fight goes into a higher gear

The government is stepping up its fight against foot-and-mouth disease as the Lunar New Year holiday drew to a close with no new outbreaks.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs said Wednesday that it will disinfect all cloven-hoofed animal farms, related facilities, equipment and vehicles across the country today to prevent the spread of the highly contagious viral disease.

The government was on high alert over the Lunar New Year holiday period as outbreaks of the disease were confirmed at three cattle farms just before the holiday period. The last outbreak was confirmed on Jan. 31 at a cattle farm in Chungju, North Chungcheong.

As a week has passed since the latest outbreak, the Agriculture Ministry is focusing on prevention over the next week, which it said will be most important as the disease has an incubation period of up to two weeks.

For today’s disinfection measures, the government said it will dispatch 540 disinfection teams, 13 military fumigation vehicles and 40 drones.

The ministry said it will send inspection officials to slaughterhouses that were closed over the holiday. The officials will disinfect 73 slaughterhouses, which will open in stages starting from today.

The three outbreaks late last month triggered strict prevention measures, such as a nationwide 48-hour standstill order on all livestock-related vehicles and a three-week shutdown of all cloven-hoofed animal livestock markets.

As of Wednesday, the ministry preventatively culled 2,272 animals on 29 livestock farms. This includes 203 cattle at the three farms with confirmed outbreaks. A total of 7,415 vehicles were mobilized to disinfect 154,976 livestock related facilities.

The government also completed vaccinations of 13.8 million livestock against foot-and-mouth disease. It plans to acquire more vaccines by the end of this month as 84 percent of reserve vaccines were used in the recent emergency vaccinations.

The infectious viral disease that affects cloven-hoofed animals causes high fever and is accompanied by blisters near the mouth and the feet. Foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks have led to mass cullings in the past.

From 2014 to 2018, over 200,000 animals were culled due to the disease, according to a report from the Agriculture Ministry acquired by the office of lawmaker Son Kum-ju.

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