South Korea on Tuesday raised its foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) alert level one notch following its first confirmed case in nine months, the government said.
According to the Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency (QIA), pigs at a farm in Gimje, 260 kilometers south of Seoul, tested positive for the highly contagious disease that affects cloven hoofed animals.
The country's alert level has been raised from the normal "Blue" to "Yellow" with quarantine officials sent to the farm to restrict the movement of animals and vehicles, it said.
Yellow is the third-highest readiness posture in the country's four-tiered alert system aimed at dealing with contagious outbreaks.
FMD is a "List A" disease as designated by the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health. Countries that report the disease are barred from exporting meat from all cloven hoofed animals, such as cattle, pigs, sheep and goats. The FMD virus strain discovered in Gimje is the same "O" type that hit the country in the 2014-2015 period.
QIA said that the farm raised 670 pigs with symptoms being detected on some 30 animal on Monday. All animals on the farm have been culled to prevent the disease from spreading, with some 118 farms that raise livestock within a 3 kilometer radius barred from moving animals.
In addition, the QIA, in consultation with the farm ministry and the livestock quarantine consultation committee, has ordered a 24-hour-long "standstill" of all cloven hoofed animals in North Jeolla and nearby South Chungcheong provinces starting at midnight. Authorities said this will temporarily stop the movement of animals from around 45,000 farms and give quarantine workers time to set up checkpoints and decontamination areas along roads.
"Since a large number of animals in the country have already been given FMD vaccines, there is little risk of the disease spreading nationwide," a quarantine official said.
The latest outbreak meanwhile comes after 185 cases of FMD were reported in the country from Dec. 3, 2014, through April 28, 2015. Since last April, no new case had been detected, which allowed authorities to downgrade the country's readiness posture to normal.
The Lunar New Year holiday, which falls on Feb. 8 this year, is just weeks away. Because many people visit their home towns to meet family and friends during the holiday, they could unwittingly spread the disease.
Since 2002, the country has reported six outbreaks of FMD with three occurring in 2010.
Not counting the latest case, the country spent some 3.04 trillion won to contain FMD outbreaks so far that include money spent on compensating farmers and decontamination efforts. (Yonhap)