Disinfection officials at work Sunday after an African swine fever case was discovered in Goseong-gun, Gangwon Province. (Yonhap)
South Korea is again on alert to contain the spread of the deadly Africa swine fever after finding a new case at a pig farm just three months after the last discovery.
The government-led ASF task force announced Sunday that an ASF case was confirmed at a domesticated pig farm in Goseong-gun, Gangwon Province. The latest discovery of an ASF case in a pig farm comes three months after the last case was found in the province on May 4.
The country so far has located a total of 18 ASF cases at local pig farms since the outbreak started in September 2019. Authorities culled more than 450,000 farmed pigs culled across 14 pig farms in the first 30 days.
The swine virus, for which no vaccine exists, has a fatality rate of nearly 100 percent for infected animals. It is known to pass by direct contact as well as through infected animal feed and on clothing and farm equipment, although it appears to be harmless to humans.
The pig farm in Goseong-gun was raising 2,400 pigs and was the only pig farm in a three-kilometer radius. There are two other farms with combined 3,100 pigs in a 10-kilometer radius.
Officials believe the latest resurgence came as young boars born in the spring became more active in summer months. The virus is active across Europe and Asia, and it was also found to have spread to South America in recent months.
The task force said Sunday that it had ordered all pigs in the Goseong-gun farm to be culled and is carrying out disinfection efforts in nearby areas. Domesticated pigs in Gyeonggi Province and Gangwon Province are also barred from movement from 6 a.m. Sunday to 6 a.m. Tuesday.
The Ministry of Environment said it would strengthen its search for wild boars and their dead carcasses while installing more fences to prevent movements of wild boars. ASF-infected wild boars’ movements have been identified as a reason for the resurgence of the virus.
Including cases found in wild boars, South Korea has so far discovered 1,517 ASF cases on its soil to date.
The news of another discovery could be threatening to local pig farmers who have already incurred huge losses and debts from continued ASF outbreak. The government allowed pig farms to allow pigs back in their barns in September but not enough time has passed for pig farms to start making profit from raising pigs.
Industry insiders say it takes anywhere between a full year and 16 months for pig farms to start turning a profit after buying their pigs. Many rely on debt before the profit is realized, and continued prevalence of ASF has already forced many pig farms to get loans and incur more debt.
By Ko Jun-tae (firstname.lastname@example.org