SEJONG -- South Korea still has recorded two cases of African swine fever since Wednesday, as two more suspected cases (three dead hogs) in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, tested negative for the virus early Saturday.
On Friday, two hog farms in the region notified the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs of the suspected cases of ASF, and a group of inspectors were dispatched to the farms in Paju’s Jeokseong (where two hogs were found dead early in the day) and Papyeong (one) districts.
But the ministry de facto clarified in a press release at 12:58 a.m., Saturday that the cause of the three pigs’ death at both farms was not the deadly virus, publicizing the negative reaction. It has not elaborated on further details.
So far since Tuesday, one case (the first outbreak in the nation) has been confirmed in Paju and one in Yeoncheon, also in northern Gyeonggi Province, which led the quarantine authorities to conduct sterilization operations at the majority of the 6,000 hog farms across the country.
While both of the affected areas are near the inter-Korean border, the authorities are concerned about contagion spreading to the southern and eastern parts of Gyeonggi Province and to neighboring Gangwon Province.
The number of pigs culled in Paju and Yeoncheon is estimated to reach at least 10,000 in total by the weekend, according to ministry officials.
Minister of Interior and Safety Chin Young (center) looks at a board showing statistics on hog farms nationwide at a policy briefing in Jincheon, North Chungcheong Province, Friday, as a state-led move is underway to prevent the spread of African swine fever. (Yonhap)
Despite the foretunately negative reaction in the two more suspected cases, this weekend will likely be a critical crossroads to fight the disease, as quarantine officials have said the incubation period for the virus is a week or more.
In North Korea in late May, a case of African swine fever was reported in Jagang Province, which borders China. But the South Korean government has no information as to whether there was outbreak in the southern part of North Korea, close to Paju and Yeoncheon, over the past few months.
Paju borders on Incheon’s Ganghwa county and on the cities of Gimpo, Goyang, Yangju and Uijeongbu in Gyeonggi Province. Yeoncheon is close to Dongducheon and Pocheon, both in Gyeonggi Province, and to Cheorwon in neighboring Gangwon Province.
According to the Korea Institute for Animal Products Quality Evaluation, located near the Government Complex Sejong, the 6,000 farms nationwide have a total of 11.3 million hogs.
South Chungcheong Province, where regions such as Hongseong and Cheonan are home to large-scale farm villages, topped the list with 2.3 million pigs, followed by Gyeonggi Province with 1.9 million.
Gyeonggi has the largest number of hog farms, 1,250, and South Chungcheong is next with 1,142. Together, the two provinces account for 35-40 percent of hog farms nationwide. Other major hog farming regions include North Gyeongsang Province and North Jeolla Province.
African swine fever has a 100 percent mortality rate for infected pigs, but doctors and veterinarians say it cannot infect humans. Cooked pork presents little risk, even if the pigs were infected with the virus, according to ministry officials.
By Kim Yon-se (email@example.com