Seoul is vulnerable to FMD
By Lee Hyo-sik
Two cattle farms in a town, just north of Seoul, have become the latest victim of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), making the nation’s capital more vulnerable to the deadly virus. After devastating livestock farms in Andong and other cities in North Gyeongsang Province over the past few weeks, the disease has made its way closer into the region surrounding Seoul.
On Monday, the two farms in Goyang City, Gyeonggi Province, about 20 kilometers north of Seoul, were confirmed to be infected with the highly infectious disease after animals showed symptoms, including excessive drooling and blisters on the tongue the previous day. Owners and quarantine authorities culled and buried a total of 200 cows.
Last Wednesday, two pig farms in Yangju and Yeoncheon were forced to destroy a combined 24,000 pigs, while additional 18,000 pigs and cows at 23 farms within a 500-meter radius of the infected farms were slaughtered and buried. A cattle farm in nearby Paju also confirmed an outbreak of FMD.
Experts say that it is just a matter of time for foot-and-mouth disease to spread to Seoul and other parts of the country, given that the virus is more active in cold weather. They say the infected livestock farms in Goyang is just several kilometers away from Seoul, warning that the virus could more easily spread to other areas as a large number of people and vehicles travel in and out of Korea’s most densely-populated city.
But the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries say that there are only a handful of livestock farms in Goyang, adding it is unlikely for the virus to spill over to nearby municipalities on the back of its swift and extensive quarantine efforts.
``We immediately culled and buried all cattle on the infected farms in Goyang. Since there are only a few livestock farms in the area, we do not think FMD has spread to nearby areas. Additionally, owners and workers of the infected farms have not traveled to other areas in recent days,’’ a ministry official said.
The official also said since northern Gyeonggi Province areas suffered extensive FMD epidemic earlier this year, local municipalities there are more experienced in how to deal with the deadly disease. ``Fortunately, temperatures have risen over the past few days. So, we do not expect any major hurdles in our quarantine efforts.’’
No new cases of FMD have been reported in North Gyeongsang Province since Dec. 15 when a cattle farm in Yecheon was infected with the disease. The ministry said the epidemic there has come to a state of lull as municipal administrations and quarantine experts have made all-out efforts to stop the spread of the deadly virus.
Farms in Andong first reported outbreaks of the disease on Nov. 29, about half a year after the last one in Korea. In several days the epidemic spread to Yecheon and other nearby municipalities.
A total of 1,143 farms have been confirmed to have discovered with the disease so far, with more than 199,177 livestock slaughtered as a result, the largest amount ever. In 2002, a total of 165,555 domesticated animals were destroyed. The farms are estimated to have suffered more than 300 billion won in losses.
Korea was declared clear of the disease in September by the World Organization for Animal Health, but the status was revoked following the recent outbreak. The disease affects animals with cloven hooves, such as cows, pigs, sheep, goats and deer.