SEJONG -- South Korea’s quarantine authorities are striving to prevent African swine fever, which was detected in the nation’s northwestern region near the inter-Korean border this week, from spreading to other parts of the country.
After the first outbreak in Paju, a city in northern Gyeonggi Province, Tuesday, the second case was confirmed Wednesday at a hog farm in the nearby county of Yeoncheon, located east of Paju. Both areas are near the border with North Korea.
Nearly 9,000 pigs at farms in Paju and Yeoncheon were reportedly culled Tuesday and Wednesday.
Officials have not ruled out the possibility that the deadly virus may have spread to areas such as Yangju, Uijeongbu, Namyangju, Goyang or Incheon. If not contained, it could spread fast to southern Gyeonggi, South and North Chungcheong provinces and Gangwon Province.
To prevent the virus from spreading, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has designated six regions -- Paju, Yeoncheon, Dongducheon, Pocheon, Cheorwon and Gimpo -- as a so-called “forward defense line.”
Pork products are displayed at a large discount chain in Seoul, Wednesday, while the government downplayed concerns over a spike in meat consumer prices following outbreak of African swine fever at two locations in northern Gyeonggi Province. (Yonhap)
The city of Anseong in southern Gyeonggi Province is a major supplier of pork products. Since the first half of the year, about 170 hog farms in the city have strengthened precautions against an influx of African swine fever, which had been detected in China, Mongolia, Vietnam and North Korea.
The Agriculture Ministry, in a statement, said it would “intensively sterilize the farms in the six areas by mobilizing as many disinfection vehicles as possible.”
Hog farmers in the six areas have been prohibited from shipping pigs to other regions of the country for the coming three weeks, having previously been under a one-week ban.
The government also barred them from using non-designated slaughterhouses since quarantine officials began a special inspection Tuesday.
The virus causes a highly contagious hemorrhagic fever in pigs and can be spread via fomites such as farm equipment and transportation trucks, as well as uncooked pig products. Mortality rates in pigs can be as high as 100 percent.
Meanwhile, a ministry official downplayed the possibility of a spike in pork prices for consumers, saying “a 32.4 percent (daily) jump in wholesale pork prices on Tuesday was just a temporary situation, which was due to intermediate wholesalers’ en masse securing of products following the first ASF outbreak.”
He pointed out that “pork supply this year is posting a 13 percent rise, compared to past average years. Further, meat processing companies are holding sufficient inventory.”
Officials also dismissed the possibility of the disease infecting humans. Some doctors, however, have warned against eating uncooked pork.
By Kim Yon-se (firstname.lastname@example.org)