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Concerns resurface as suspected case of African swine fever reported in Gimpo

SEJONG -- Another suspected case of African swine fever was reported Monday at a hog farm in Gimpo, Gyeonggi Province, while there has been no additional confirmed case of the virus for four days since the second outbreak in Yeoncheon, Gyeonggi Province, on Wednesday.

The farm is located in Gimpo’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 and North Korean territory, the Han River flows to the West Sea.

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.
Quarantine officials control access to a pig farm in Gimpo, Monday, after a suspected case of African swine fever was reported in the city early in the day. (Yonhap)
Quarantine officials control access to a pig farm in Gimpo, Monday, after a suspected case of African swine fever was reported in the city early in the day. (Yonhap)

As of 3 p.m., the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs was looking into the hog farm to check whether the suspected pigs test positive or negative for the virus. It dispatched a group of quarantine officials earlier in the day.

The farm was raising about 1,800 hogs, and four mother pigs among them had miscarriages, which sparked concerns 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 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.”

Meanwhile, hog farmers nationwide were hoping for news of a negative reaction in the suspected case in Gimpo. Paju reported additional suspected cases at two farms Friday, but the three dead pigs at the farms tested negative early Saturday.

The butchery market was also closely monitoring the situation Monday. A 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 (