By Lee Hyo-sik
A cattle farm in Yecheon, North Gyeongsang Province, was found to have been infected with the deadly foot-and-mouth disease Monday, the first outbreak outside Andong where the disease was first reported early last week.
Confirmation of this has put the provincial government and state quarantine agencies on the highest alert as it has become more likely the highly contagious virus will spread throughout the province and possibly beyond.
Three suspected foot-and-mouth disease cases reported in Yeongju and Daegu have tested negative. But another farm in Cheongdo, about 100 kilometers away from the epicenter, has reported suspected signs of the virus on its livestock and is awaiting laboratory test results.
According to the North Gyeongsang Provincial Government, a livestock farm in Yecheon, some 21 kilometers southwest of Andong, was confirmed to be infected with the animal disease. Over 200 cows within a 500 meter radius of the infected farm were destroyed and buried underground to stem the spread of the virus to other regions.
The first outbreak outside Andong came a week after the disease hit two pig farms there on Nov. 29, about half a year after the last epidemic broke out in Korea. Over the past week, a total of 39 suspected cases at pig and cattle farms have been reported.
Of the 39, 30 of them have tested positive for foot-and-mouth disease, which affects cloven-hoofed animals, with eight confirmed to be negative. The remaining case is under examination.
As of 9 a.m. Monday, a total of 47,000 cows, pigs, goats, and other domesticated animals at infected farms and nearby ones were culled and buried under the disease prevention program. The provincial government said about 30,000 more livestock will be buried.
Nearly 400 veterinarians and civil servants have been mobilized throughout the province to spread disinfectant at livestock farms, as well as check on suspected cases of the disease. A total of 180 makeshift guard posts have been set up on major roads to restrict the movements of livestock, people and vehicles in and out of the infected areas.
“We are doing everything we can to prevent the deadly disease from spreading further. We are culling infected animals as quickly as possible and taking all possible preventive measures against the disease,” a provincial government official said. About 10 special teams have been formed to quickly and effectively deal with future outbreaks, he said.
South Korea remained free of foot-and-mouth disease from 2002 until an outbreak in January, and again in April of this year. The country was declared clear of the animal disease, which affects animals with cloven hooves such as sheep, goats and deer, in late September by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).
But following the latest outbreaks in Andong, the nation was deprived of its OIE status, with Japan and other countries halting imports of livestock products from Korea.