South Korea said yesterday it had culled about 15 percent of its combined pig and cattle population to contain outbreaks of foot-and-mouth, while it slaughtered 3 percent of its poultry population against bird flu.
North Korea has also apparently suffered an outbreak of foot-and-mouth, a South Korean Unification Ministry spokeswoman said yesterday.
Asia’s No. 4 economy confirmed 120 cases of foot-and-mouth by yesterday, up from Friday’s 116 cases, and 26 cases of H5N1 avian influenza, up from 23 cases on Friday, in statements from the agriculture ministry.
The ministry said 2.1 million animals, mostly pigs, and 3.6 million poultry, mostly chicken, had been culled to be buried.
The nationwide outbreaks of foot-and-mouth originated in pigs in the city of Andong in North Gyeongsang Province on Nov. 28 and rapidly spreading outbreaks to six provinces triggered South Korea to expand vaccination nationwide.
“The government set a policy to minimize slaughter against foot-and-mouth, while utilizing vaccination to prevent the disease,” a statement from the presidential office on Sunday quoted South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who visited disinfection sites, as saying.
“Through the disinfection, I hope there will be fruitful outcomes before the Lunar New Year holidays,” he said, referring to the country’s biggest holidays when local meat demand usually peaks and the largest number of people move around for family reunions.
On top of the serious outbreaks of foot-and-mouth, South Korea also confirmed the first case of bird flu on Dec. 31 in ducks in the city of Cheonan, South Chungcheong Province, and in chickens in the city of Iksan in North Jeolla Province.
The country has no human cases of bird flu. Foot-and-mouth disease affects livestock including sheep, cows and pigs, while meat from infected animals is not harmful to humans.
As to the outbreak in the North, South Korean Unification Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-Ju quoted members of charity groups and other officials who have recently visited the North, saying the scope and origin of the outbreak is as yet unknown.
“We’ve heard quite a bit about the outbreak [in the North] from recent visitors to the country,” Lee said. “But the North hasn’t officially confirmed anything either via state media or by reporting to international health organizations.”
Yonhap news agency, quoting an unidentified Seoul official, said the North had deployed its military to help disinfect farms across the nation since the outbreak was reported last month. JoongAng Ilbo newspaper said Pyongyang had blocked road traffic in nearby areas and ordered residents to refrain from traveling.
“We’ve learned that the North is unable to carry out quarantine and sanitization efforts properly due to lack of necessary medicines and equipment,” the paper quoted an intelligence official as saying.
It said the epidemic may take a toll on the North’s military, which has raised livestock at military facilities since the early 2000s to feed its troops.
People in the North, which suffers persistent food shortages, have been eating infected cattle and pigs instead of burying them, the official was quoted as saying.
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