(ATTN: CHANGES headline; ADDS details in paras 4-6, updates from the ministry in last para)
By Kang Yoon-seung
SEJONG, Sept. 23 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's agriculture ministry said Monday that another suspected case of African swine fever (ASF) was reported after the country confirmed two cases of the deadly animal disease last week.
The suspected case was reported at a farm in Gimpo, 30 kilometers west of Seoul, according to the ministry. It was the first suspected case reported south of the Han River, which runs through the South Korean capital.
South Korea's first-ever confirmed case of ASF was reported in Paju, located near the border with North Korea on Tuesday. The second confirmed case was reported the following day in neighboring Yeoncheon.
The farm, with 1,800 pigs in Gimpo, is located roughly 15 kilometers from the Paju farm and 45 km from Yeoncheon, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs.
More than 3,000 pigs are currently being raised within a 3-km radius of the farm in Gimpo, the ministry said, with the number increasing to around 50,000 in a 10-km range.
The ministry said quarantine officials gathered samples from the farm and are currently carrying out tests to find out whether the pigs were infected with the virus. The test result is set to be delivered later in the day.
So far, all confirmed or suspected cases came from northern areas of Gyeonggi Province, adjacent with the inter-Korean border.
Two suspected cases of ASF were also reported in Paju on Friday, then later tested negative.
The disease is highly contagious and fatal for pigs, with no cure currently available. It is, however, not harmful to humans.
The ASF cases came roughly four months after North Korea reported its first confirmed case of the disease -- at a farm near its border with China -- to the World Organization for Animal Health.
Local authorities are currently working to determine what caused ASF in the country, including inspecting waterways that connect to North Korea. The disease is mainly spread by contaminated feed or by direct contact with people and wild animals with the virus.
The ministry said it will also speed up efforts to recover from damage caused by Typhoon Tapah, which stuck southern parts of South Korea on Sunday with strong winds and heavy rains, to prevent any further spread of ASF.
"We need to bolster quarantine measures to the highest level, and apply disinfectants throughout the country following the heavy rain," Agriculture Minister Kim Hyeon-soo said during an emergency meeting on ASF.
As the incubation period of ASF is up to 19 days, local farmers are remaining vigilant over a possible nationwide outbreak of the disease.
Under quarantine efforts, the ministry designated six municipalities of Gyeonggi Province, including Paju, Yeoncheon and Gimpo, as tightly controlled zones last week. More than 400 farms are estimated to be raising around 700,000 pigs in the six areas.
The ministry has been slaughtering pigs within a 3-km radius of the farms infected with the fever, larger than the required 500-meter radius. The government has culled some 15,000 pigs in those areas over the weekend as part of precautionary steps.
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