South Korea's quarantine authorities on Saturday found two wild boars dead with traces of African swine fever (ASF) north of Seoul, raising concerns over the spread of the deadly animal disease through wildlife in the country.
One of the boars was detected in Cheorwon, 90 kilometers north of Seoul, according to the Ministry of Environment. It was the first time traces of ASF had been found in Gangwon Province.
The other wild board was found in Yeoncheon, a town in Gyeonggi Province that has seen two cases of ASF at pig farms. Another boar was found dead in the Demilitarized Zone in the area earlier this month.
South Korea has confirmed 14 cases of ASF at local pig farms since mid-September, when the country experienced its first-ever outbreak of the deadly animal disease.
All of the cases were reported in areas in Gyeonggi Province and Incheon, adjacent to North Korea, which experienced its own outbreak earlier this year.
The disease is not harmful to people, but it is fatal for pigs, and there are no cures currently available.
How the virus traveled into South Korea remains unknown, although some suspect that it came from North Korea. The disease is spread through direct contact with animals carrying the virus or by contaminated feed.
The environment ministry said that although it is unlikely the wild boars traveled into the country straight from the North, it is possible their infection came from there indirectly.
"We urge local farms to check their fences to prevent possible contact between pigs and wild boars," Agricultural Minister Kim Hyeon-soo said during a meeting at the Sejong Government Complex in central South Korea.
Quarantine officials have been implementing all-out operations to tackle the virus, especially focusing their efforts on preventing the virus from traveling south.
The ministry, which earlier decided to slaughter all pigs within a 3-kilometer radius of infected farms, has culled more than 150,000 pigs since the outbreak started.
Additionally, the ministry is currently purchasing pigs from other farms outside of that range in selected towns -- Paju, Gimpo, and Yeoncheon -- to be slaughtered and inspected before their meat is released to the market. Pigs that are not purchased will also eventually be culled. (Yonhap)