Korea decided Monday to greatly expand animal vaccinations to stem outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease, which continues to spread throughout the country despite nationwide quarantine efforts, the government said.
Farm Minister Yoo Jeong-bok said in a news briefing that shots will be administered to all animals in Gyeonggi Province surrounding Seoul and large parts of Chungcheong in the country’s central region.
He added that vaccines are to be given to animals in mountainous Gangwon Province to the east of the capital city along with North Gyeongsang Province on Korea’s southeastern coast, which reported the first outbreaks. “Areas that are vulnerable to the spread of the animal disease will be given vaccines as a precautionary step, even if no FMD cases have been reported,” he said.
The announcement means that Seoul is moving to effectively vaccinate the entire country, since Jeolla Province on the country’s southwestern coast and the resort island of Jeju are the only regions that have not been hit by FMD so far.
Following the confirmation of the first outbreak on Nov. 29, a total of 82 cases have been reported, along with a few other outbreaks that are not officially counted since the animals were culled before test results came in.
Quarantine authorities have ordered the culling and burial of more than 668,000 heads of cattle, pigs, goats and deer in five provinces and the port city of Incheon, 40 kilometers east of Seoul.
The latest move comes after the government originally said on Dec. 22 that it will carry out limited vaccinations on cattle to contain the contagious animal disease.
The latest FMD outbreak has spread through five provinces and Incheon, the country’s second-largest seaport. More than 500,000 livestock are slated to receive vaccines although the numbers may go up in the coming days.
Vaccinations are only used as a last resort due to extra costs and because it will require more time for the country to regain its “FMD-free status” from the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health.
The farm ministry, meanwhile, confirmed five fresh outbreaks earlier in the day. (Yonhap News)
A pig farm in Boryeong and a milk cow farm in Cheonan, 170km and 90km south of Seoul, respectively, tested positive for FMD, the ministry said. The outbreaks bring the total to four in the province after the first was reported over the weekend. Quarantine authorities added that a small cattle farm in Chuncheon, 85km east of the capital city, and two cow farms in North Gyeongsang all confirmed FMD cases after animals started showing symptoms that included excessive drooling, blisters on the snouts and hooves on Sunday.
All 189 heads of cattle on the four farms and 23,000 pigs have been ordered destroyed with other livestock within a 500-meter radius of both farms ordered culled and buried as a precautionary move.
FMD is highly contagious and affects all cloven-hoofed animals, such as cattle, pigs, deer, goats and buffalo. It is classified as a “List A” disease by the OIE, although it is harmless to humans.
The country was hit by the disease in 2000, 2002 and two more times early last year, with the recent outbreak being the most severe in the country’s history.