SEJONG -- Another case of African swine fever was confirmed Monday at a hog farm in Gimpo, Gyeonggi Province, following the second outbreak of the virus in Yeoncheon, Gyeonggi Province, last Wednesday.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, which dispatched a group of quarantine officials to the farm earlier in the day, announced at 7:53 p.m. on Monday that the suspected pigs at the farm tested positive for the virus.
The hog farm is located in Gimpo City’s Tongjin district, which is south of Kaesong in North Korea and west of Gyeonggi’s Paju, where the first outbreak of ASF hit the nation last Tuesday.
Tongjin, Paju and Yeoncheon are areas close to the inter-Korean border, all of which belong to northern Gyeonggi Province. Between Tongjin-eup and North Korean territory, the Han River flows to the West Sea.
Further -- later in the day -- another suspected case of ASF was reported at a pig farm in Paju City's Jeokseong district, following the third outbreak in Gimpo, while two previously suspected cases reported at other farms in Paju last Friday tested negative in early Saturday.
As a case of African swine fever was confirmed in North Korea in late May, market insiders have not ruled out the possibility of the virus spreading from the North.
However, some have downplayed the possibility -- pointing out that Jagang Province, where the outbreak in the North was reported, is quite far from the South’s territory -- unless there have been low-key outbreaks in the southern part of North Korea.
The farm in Gimpo was raising about 1,800 hogs. Four mother pigs among them had miscarriages, and one other was found dead, which sparked fears among hog farmers across the country.
As Gimpo is one of six areas that have been under tight supervision by quarantine authorities since last week, the news confirming the third outbreak has raised concerns about the possible rapid spread of the deadly virus.
Authorities are keeping a close watch on the possibility that the virus might spread to southern and eastern Gyeonggi Province -- which includes Pyeongtaek, Anseong, Yangpyeong and Yeoju -- as well as Incheon City’s Ganghwa and Ongjin districts.
In addition, an outbreak across southern Gyeonggi Province could directly affect its southward neighbor, South Chungcheong Province, where the highest number (2.3 million) of hogs were being raised in the nation as of 2018. Gyeonggi Province ranked second with 1.9 million.
“Since the typhoon warning was lifted early Monday, the (central) government has resumed the full-fledged sterilization of about 6,000 hog farms nationwide,” an official said. “Each local government has already taken protective measures over the past week.”
But hog raisers nationwide have expressed frustration and discontent over the state quarantine system following the third outbreak. A farmer in Hongseong, South Chungcheong Province, said “it seems that the front defense line against the virus has collapsed.”
The butchery market was also closely monitoring the situation Monday. The positive reaction for the disease at the farm in Tongjin and alarm bells ringing in other provinces could cause a mid-term spike in pork prices despite stabilization over the weekend.
ASF has a 100 percent mortality rate for infected pigs, though doctors and veterinarians say it cannot infect humans. The incubation period is a week or more.
By Kim Yon-se (firstname.lastname@example.org)