Govt admits faults in FMD countermeasures
By Kim Rahn
Slack monitoring and belated quarantine measures were the main factors behind the nationwide spread of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), the authorities said Tuesday, acknowledging for the first time that their initial mismanagement of the otherwise controllable virus resulted in enormous damage to the country.
The National Veterinary Research and Quarantine Service released an interim report on the animal disease, reflecting on what went wrong in dealing with it as it outpaced the government’s quarantine efforts.
According to the report, the pig farm in Andong, North Gyeongsang Province, reported a suspicious FMD case on Nov. 23. But the authorities took lukewarm action, because the result of a simple test kit was negative. Five days later, however, the result of a larger-scale test was positive.
The authorities hastily launched a quarantine operation, but the virus had already spread.
“If quarantine officials there reported the suspicious case to headquarters, we may have been able to start the operation about a week earlier,” the report said, acknowledging the mistake.
“Unlike foreign countries, Korean farms are gathered in small regions. So if animals in one farm are infected with a disease, the disease spreads quickly and the damage is huge,” it said.
Andong is also a clannish region and people there have many social gatherings, the report said.
“Even after FMD broke out, people from affected farms and non-affected farms often met, spreading the virus rapidly,” the report said, adding farms there and the authorities failed to stop people and cars from moving between farms.
The report also said the unusually strong and long cold spell aggravated the situation, as antiseptic solutions froze and quarantine officers had to fight the cold.
Since the first outbreak was confirmed on Nov. 29, the animal disease has spread almost throughout the country, forcing officials to cull more than 2.5 million livestock.