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(LEAD) S. Korea reports additional FMD outbreak at pig production farm

All Headlines 16:41 December 24, 2010

(ATTN: RECAST headline, lead; UPDATES with more details in paras 2-8)

SEOUL, Dec. 24 (Yonhap) -- South Korea confirmed a foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak at a large pig production farm in North Gyeongsang Province on Friday, fueling the spread of the highly contagious animal disease.

The Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said the farm with 24,000 animals, located in Yeongcheon, 344 kilometers southeast of Seoul, tested positive for the disease.

The pigs raised at the production facility are sold to other farms with authorities acknowledging that animals carrying the FMD virus may have been inadvertently sold to other parts of the country.

The animals were put under close observation only Thursday after some animals started to develop blisters on their snouts, teats and hooves and showed a loss of appetite.

"There is a chance that animals infected with FMD may have been sold from the farm before a quarantine ring was set up," an official, who declined to be identified, said.

Local authorities said all animals on the farm and those within a three-kilometer radius will be culled to prevent the spread of the disease. Pigs are much more resistant to the disease than cattle, but they can spread the disease more rapidly.

The latest confirmation comes after the farm ministry reported outbreaks at a pig farm in Ganghwa Island off the west coast and small cattle ranch in Hoengseong, 140 kilometers to the east of the capital city, earlier in the day. All 945 animals on the two sites have been ordered destroyed, along with those at nearby farms.

The outbreak in Hoengseong is the second to be reported in one of the country's top premium beef production areas, while the case in Ganghwa is the first to be reported on the island, which is part of the city of Incheon.

Related to the latest outbreak, the most severe in South Korea's history, the government announced Wednesday that it will opt to vaccinate animals after nationwide quarantine and decontamination efforts failed to prevent the disease from spreading. The vaccines will be administered starting Saturday.

After the first case was confirmed on Nov. 29 in North Gyeongsang Province, the disease spread to Gyeonggi and Gangwon provinces and Incheon, with a total of 50 cases being reported and over 325,000 animals being ordered destroyed.

FMD is highly contagious and affects all cloven-hoofed animals, such as cattle, pigs, deer, goats and buffalo, although it is harmless to humans. It is classified as a "List A" disease by the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health, with countries that report outbreaks barred from exporting meat.

The country, was hit by the disease in 2000, 2002 and two more times earlier in the year. Authorities have ordered the culling of a record 299,700 livestock so far with estimated losses expected to hover around 400 billion (US$347 million).


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