DMZ is dusted to try to prevent spread of ASFSouth Korea is using helicopters to disinfect the border area to combat the spread of African swine fever (ASF) after it found a wild boar carcass infected with the deadly virus in the demilitarized zone.
According to the Ministry of National Defense, the government has started to disinfect the entire border area north of the civilian-restricted zone, starting with the DMZ in Yeoncheon County, Gyeonggi on Friday, where the infected wild animal was found.
It notified North Korea of the measures and is conducting fumigation with approval from the United Nations Command. Seven fumigation helicopters from the Korea Forest Service will disinfect the area over the next seven days with soil disinfectants such as quicklime.
The government has been on high alert for the disease’s potential spread from North Korea after it confirmed the virus Thursday in the wild boar carcass found roughly 1.4 kilometers (0.87 miles) from South Korean fences in the DMZ, according to the Ministry of Environment.
Environment Minister Cho Myung-rae said Friday the ministry would increase inspection teams searching for ASF-infected wild animals in the border area by twofold. He added that the ministry has requested cooperation from the Defense Ministry so that the officials could continue their search inside the DMZ.
Although the military has strengthened border controls since June - authorizing soldiers to shoot infected wild boars or pigs crossing over to South Korea - the infected boar carcass suggests that wild animals could have slipped through the heavily fortified border.
Meanwhile, all pigs in the cities of Gimpo and Paju in Gyeonggi could be culled as the government desperately attempts to contain the spread of ASF following four new confirmed cases of the disease in the areas this week.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs on Friday, the government has started to purchase five-month-old or older pigs unaffected by the disease in Gimpo and Paju to be slaughtered for meat processing. It plans to cull the rest as a preventative measure.
Over 60,000 remaining pigs in the two cities could be killed as a result, although the measure requires consent from pig farms. If all the pigs in the two cities are slaughtered, that will bring the total number of pigs killed to prevent ASF to over 200,000 since the outbreak last month.
A 48-hour lockdown on pig farms, slaughterhouses, feed factories and related vehicles in Gyeonggi, Gangwon and Incheon that was due to expire on Friday has been extended until 3:30 a.m. Sunday.
Three farms in Paju and one in Gimpo were confirmed infected with ASF this week, leading to a total of 13 infected sites. The virus has so far been contained to counties and cities in northern Gyeonggi and Incheon - Gimpo, Paju, Yeoncheon County in Gyeonggi and Ganghwa County in Incheon. The government has already culled all pigs from Ganghwa County, leaving Yeoncheon the only area not widely culled.
One new suspected case of ASF was reported Friday on Baengyeong Island, far off the country’s western coast in Ongjin County, Incheon.
The report from Baengyeong Island heightens suspicions that the disease may have come from North Korea as the island is around 150 kilometers away from the nearest infected site in South Korea - but just 15 kilometers from North Korea, which confirmed the virus’ outbreak in May.
The Baengyeong Island farm, which has around 270 pigs, reported a suspected infection on Friday after seven pigs were found dead.
The military has been on the lookout for infected wild boar or pig carcasses from North Korea that may have floated to South Korea.
Consumer prices for pork have steadily crept up as one kilogram of samgyeopsal, or pork belly, stood at 21,850 won ($8.3 per pound) compared to last month’s average price of 20,560 won, a 6.3 percent rise.
BY CHAE YUN-HWAN [email@example.com]