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S. Korea not to raise FMD alert level despite new outbreak

South Korea will not raise its present foot-and-mouth disease alert level despite a fresh outbreak in the southeastern part of the country over the weekend, a government official said Monday.

Deputy Farm Minister Lee Sang-kil said animals at the small farm in Yeongcheon, 344 kilometers from Seoul, were affected by the “type O” FMD virus that had devastated South Korea since November.

The farm owner reported the sick animals on Saturday, and they were confirmed to have the FMD virus the following day.

“There is no need to upgrade the country’s present ‘yellow’ alert level to ‘orange’ since it is unlikely that the virus could pose risks to more animals,” the official said.

He pointed out that all 13 million cattle and pigs have received shots to protect them from the “type O” virus.

Seoul lowered the alert status to “yellow” last Tuesday, and from “red” ― its maximum readiness posture ― to “orange” on March 24 after the last FMD case, before Saturday’s, was reported on Feb. 26.

“More work needs to be done to determine why the animals got sick, but it may be due to the owner failing to vaccinate the breeding sow at the appropriate times,” Lee said. “In order to fully inoculate newborn piglets, the sow must be shot three or four weeks before giving birth.”

He also said that with the exception of the six piglets that got sick, none of the 67 pigs and cows at the farm will be culled since they have been inoculated twice this year and have developed antibodies.

The farm, however, will be placed in quarantine with the movement of its animals barred.

The deputy minister said that despite the alert level remaining at yellow, every effort will be made to prevent more outbreaks, and stressed that the vaccine is not 100 percent foolproof.

The farm ministry, meanwhile, said that it will maintain its high vigilance against future outbreaks.

If an “A” or “Asia-1” type FMD virus is found, the country will automatically raise the alert level to “red” and halt the movement of all animals and livestock-transportation vehicles, it said, adding this is because the vaccines given to local animals, offer little protection against other FMD virus types. 

(Yonhap News)
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