Itinerant boars get blame for swine fever

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Itinerant boars get blame for swine fever

The government is on the hunt for sick wild boars, the likely source of the spread of African swine fever (ASF) that has devastated pig farms near the border with North Korea.

During a meeting on Friday, Environment Minister Cho Myung-rae ordered the implementation of stronger containment measures.

“We need to leave all possibilities open,” said Cho at the ministry’s Seoul office. “Inspections on wild boar carcasses near the Imjin River must be made so that the cause [of the virus’ spread] can be swiftly explained.”

The virus has already claimed nine farms in South Korea - the latest in Ganghwa County, Gyeonggi, on Friday. Suspected reports of ASF have sprung up nearly every day this week.

Over 62,000 pigs are set to have been culled since last week.

The government’s focus on wild boars and bodies of water near North Korea such as the Imjin River is based on the theory that boars from the North may have crossed over and spread the disease. North Korea confirmed an outbreak of ASF in May.

ASF, which is fatal to pigs but harmless to humans, spreads through direct contact between pigs and through tainted feed.

The government has also ramped up efforts to hunt wild boar nationwide, although it has banned hunting with guns in the border region for fear of prompting more activity and possibly further spreading the disease.

“We have set up more traps in the border areas,” explained an Environment Ministry official. “The method, however, takes a lot of time and is not as efficient as guns so we are preparing a more effective method.”

Meanwhile, fear of ASF has spread to regions far away from the outbreak.

Haenam County in South Jeolla, 326 kilometers (202 miles) away from Gyeonggi, where the virus has so far been contained, announced Friday that it organized a poaching squad to hunt down wild boar.

The exact cause of the contagion’s spread in South Korea, however, has so far puzzled authorities.

The National Institute of Environmental Research, under the Ministry of Environment, announced Friday that it did not find traces of ASF in waters near the border, including the Imjin River.

Tainted water had been regarded as a possible reason the virus spread so quickly.

The government has also yet to find wild animals infected with the virus near any of the infected sites.

It has inspected 1,094 wild boars since China confirmed the virus in August last year - including 26 after last week’s outbreak - that have all tested negative for ASF.

Meanwhile, uncooked pig feed, such as leftover household food tainted with the virus, is not thought to be a cause of the recent spread of the virus. An official explained that all nine farms confirmed to have ASF used different feed for their pigs.

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