(ATTN: UPDATES with more details on additional outbreaks in paras 2-6, 10-12)
SEOUL, Dec. 22 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak has spread to mountainous Gangwon Province for the first time despite nationwide quarantine efforts, the government said Wednesday.
The farm ministry said cattle farms in Pyeongchang and Hwacheon, 182 kilometers and 118 kilometers east of Seoul, respectively, tested positive for the highly contagious disease.
The two outbreaks in Pyeongchang, a popular ski resort, and Hwacheon near the inter-Korean border with North Korea marks the first time that the disease has hit the region. This is a clear sign FMD has spread from Andong, North Gyeongsang Province, to Gyeonggi around the capital city, to the northeastern part of the country.
It also said that pig farms in Yeoncheon and Gimpo, and two cattle farms in Pocheon all in Gyeonggi Province around the capital city were hit by the highly contagious animal disease.
"All animals at the seven farms along with those within a 500-meter radius of the latest confirmed cases are to be culled to prevent further spread of the disease," the ministry said. The animals at the farm were under close observation after they showed symptoms such as loss of appetite, excessive drooling and blisters on their noses and hooves.
Since the first outbreak was confirmed on Nov. 29, the country reported 44 cases of the disease with over 224,000 livestock having been culled or slated to be destroyed. Of the total cases, nine were found in Gyeonggi, two in Gangwon and the rest in North Gyeongsang Province.
The highly contagious disease affects all cloven-hoofed animals and is classified as a "List A" disease by the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health. The disease, however, does not affect humans and animals seldom die from the disease.
The ministry, meanwhile, said a suspected case at a deer farm in Cheonan, 88km south of Seoul, tested negative for the disease.
South Korea, which reported its first FMD case in 2000, was hit again in 2002 and two more times earlier this year. In 2000, the government used vaccines to stem the outbreak, although it has opted not to resort to drugs in the years thereafter.
Related to the use of vaccines, ministry spokesman Ahn Ho-keun said that it is one of the options being reviewed, but no decision will be made immediately since there is a need to look at various conditions.
"A meeting of the expert livestock quarantine consultation committee chaired by the minister will be held in the afternoon to discuss the latest developments, including the use of vaccines," he said.
In the case of Japan, vaccines were used to stem the outbreak this year, although the animals were destroyed afterward, the official said. Such a move could lead to greater cost outlays since the government has to cover the vaccine shots and compensation for culled animals.
Vaccinating 100,000 heads of cattle or pigs could cost 600 million won (US$520,000) to 700 million won, although the number of shots that may have to be administered could go up. There are about 13 million heads of cattle and pigs in the country along with smaller numbers of cloven-hoofed animals such as deer, goat and sheep.
Other official sources estimated that the cost of culling animals already exceeded 230 billion won and likely to go up, making the latest outbreak the most severe FMD outbreak reported so far.
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