Korea‘s severest foot-and-mouth disease outbreak is expected to come under control by early March as nationwide vaccination efforts take effect, a senior policymaker said Friday.
In a radio interview with a local broadcaster, Farm Minister Yoo Jeong-bok said the number of FMD cases has started to fall off in recent weeks after the first round of nationwide vaccinations have been completed on all cattle and pigs.
After the first case was reported in late November, Seoul officially confirmed a total of 147 cases in six provinces and four major cities across the country, with 3.37 million pigs, cows, goats and deer being culled and buried so far at a cost exceeding 2 trillion won ($1.8 billion).
“Since the second round of vaccinations that can further raise resistance to the highly contagious animal disease will be completed by the end of this month, outbreaks should come under control soon after, although there may be some isolated cases,” he predicted.
But the minister, who said he will resign once the animal disease was contained, added that there may be a need to continue giving shots to livestock for two to three more years.
“As can be seen in Taiwan’s case, inoculating animals does not mean the FMD virus has been completely wiped out,” he said.
Experts said that it may cost the government around 100 billion won annually to vaccinate the 13 million heads of pigs and cows in the country every year.
On concerns of environmental pollution caused by the disposal of animals that have been destroyed to stem the spread of the disease, Yoo said checkups will be conducted on all 4,500 burial sites by the end of February.
“Remedial action will be taken for sites that have not properly buried animals,” the minister said.
There has been growing criticism that runoff from decomposing livestock is not being collected and treated properly. If such runoff enters streams or underground aquifers it could pose serious environmental and health problems.