By Kim Bo-eun
Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is spreading rapidly nationwide as cattle in another farm in Boeun, North Chungcheong Province, tested positive for the virus, officials said Thursday.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs issued its highest alert level ― last done seven years ago ― citing the simultaneous outbreak of two of the seven types of the disease, A and O.
The high-level alert will quarantine 86 livestock farms across the nation, and ban the transport of all animals.
The most recent outbreak is the fourth case reported since the first came to light Monday.
The quarantine authorities conducted a test on the cows after seven at the farm showed symptoms such as drooling.
They immediately culled five of them to prevent any further spread, while leaving two alive as they only showed a loss of appetite.
The authorities are also conducting a test on the development of antibodies in the cattle at the farm, and will review culling all of them if deemed necessary.
This is the fourth farm to have been infected with the disease since the first outbreak at a farm in Boeun, followed by others in Jeongeup, North Jeolla Province, and Yeoncheon, Gyeonggi Province.
A total of 826 cows at 12 farms have been culled so far, including 472 uninfected cows put down at nine farms as a preventative measure.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs is facing criticism for passing the buck on the outbreak to farmers by alleging that they did not properly vaccinate the animals.
The ministry plans to finish vaccinating all cows nationwide this week. It began a campaign Wednesday to vaccinate 3.14 million cows across the country at a cost of 5.34 billion won ($4.65 million).
Meanwhile, chickens at an egg farm in Gimje, North Jeolla Province, were confirmed to have been infected with the H5N8 avian influenza virus, Wednesday. This follows a series of infections which first occurred last November, after a previous outbreak in 2014.
This is the first time the H5N8 virus, which up until now has only been found in wild birds, has been detected in farm poultry.
Authorities believe the virus was brought into the farm by migratory birds based on recent infections discovered in birds at a reservoir in the adjacent county of Gochang, North Jeolla Province.
The outbreak of animal diseases is affecting meat prices. After chicken consumption returned to normal three months following the first outbreak, discount stores are now raising prices due to a shortage of supply.
E-mart, Lotte Mart and Homeplus raised prices of major chicken products by 5 to 8 percent, Thursday.
Considering the rate that FMD is spreading, pig farms could also be affected, and prices of beef and pork could also rise. If consumers turn to chicken as a substitute, chicken prices could rise further.
In addition, while the recent soar in prices of eggs due to bird flu has been curbed to some extent, it appears it will take at least six months for prices to be restored to normal.
Dairy producers worry that if FMD is not curbed by the end of the month, they could face supply shortages in March, when the spring semester at schools begins and milk demand surges.
From Nov. 2010 to April the following year, a total of 3,748 FMD cases occurred nationwide, resulting in the culling of over 3 million cows and pigs.