Stop the spread of swine fever

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Stop the spread of swine fever

Early tests on 19 pigs culled from a pig farm in South Chungcheong have proved negative after concerns that an infection of African swine fever (ASF) had spread to the area. Authorities feared that the fatal virus had traveled south from Gyeonggi province near the border of North Korea, where it has wiped out 95,000 pigs since the first case was reported two weeks ago.

Pork prices have already fluctuated. A contamination in Hongseong County, South Chungcheong — one of the biggest pig farms in the country — would have dealt a serious blow to retail prices and the industry overall.

The county alone is home to 585,000 pigs and South Chungcheong is responsible for 2.4 million pigs, or 20 percent of the country’s total pork supply. If the province had been affected with African swine fever — deadly to pigs but harmless to humans — the economic toll could have been huge.

In Korea, pork is consumed in much higher amounts than beef and poultry. Authorities claim that they have done everything they can, but they have still failed to find the source of the infection. They suspect that the virus comes from North Korea, but cannot prove it. Infection from wild pigs or the waters near Imjin River along North Korea also cannot be verified as sources. The only actions they have been taking are quarantines and temporary bans on migration.

The government has so far been focused on northern Gyeonggi province because among the nine infected farms, five are located on Gangwha Island, off the west coast of Incheon. But the latest alarm suggests the virus is on the loose.

The impact on farmers and consumers cannot be deciphered. Authorities must strengthen actions to minimize the impact. Instead of a showy round of visits and unrealistic measures, they must take action to save the country’s entire pork industry.

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 30, Page 34
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