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(LEAD) Quarantine authorities focusing on wild boars to prevent further ASF outbreaks

All News 13:42 October 18, 2019

(ATTN: ADDS details from parliamentary audit in paras 9-11, photo)
By Kang Yoon-seung

SEJONG, Oct. 18 (Yonhap) -- South Korean quarantine authorities are implementing intensive operations to prevent the possible spread of African swine fever via wild boars, after the country confirmed the ninth case of an infected wild animal, the country's agriculture ministry said Friday.

Two wild boars found dead near the border with North Korea tested positive for ASF on Thursday, bringing the number of cases to nine in South Korea in less than three weeks.

"The remains of wild boars can become the medium in the spread of African swine fever. Thus, they should be collected and disinfected under the standard operating procedure," a ministry official said.

"We are currently hunting down wild boars in designated areas near the border," he added. Earlier this week, South Korea announced the plan to mobilize 900 soldiers and civilian hunters for the operation.

Agriculture Minister Kim Hyeon-soo speaks during a parliamentary audit in Seoul on Oct. 18, 2019. (Yonhap)

Agriculture Minister Kim Hyeon-soo speaks during a parliamentary audit in Seoul on Oct. 18, 2019. (Yonhap)

In contrast, no additional ASF infections from local pig farms were reported since the 14th case confirmed on Oct. 9.

So far, all confirmed cases from wild and domestic pigs came from areas bordering North Korea.

In May, Pyongyang reported its first outbreak of the disease at a farm near its border with China to the World Organization for Animal Health.

Still, it remains unknown how the virus traveled into South Korea, although the disease normally spreads through direct contact with infected animals.

"It is possible that (the virus) traveled from North Korea," Agriculture Minister Kim Hyeon-soo said during a parliamentary audit. "While it is unlikely for wild boars to directly travel from North Korea, we cannot rule out the possibility that the virus may have traveled through other mediums."

Kim said the on-going quarantine operations near the border, including those against wild boars, prove that the ministry is aware of such possibilities.

"We are currently running tests on flies and mosquitoes (which can possibly carry the ASF virus) as well," Kim added. "We will utilize all available resources to implement thorough quarantine operations."

The virus does not affect humans but is deadly to pigs. There are currently no vaccines nor cures for the disease.

To prevent the spread of the virus to other areas, the agricultural ministry said it will speed up the purchase of pigs from local farms, which will be slaughtered and inspected before being sold to the market.

"We urge regional governments to persuade farmers to cooperate with the program without any delay," the agricultural ministry official said.

South Korea had completed the culling of more than 150,000 pigs as of Friday last week from a 3-kilometer radius of ASF-infected farms. More pigs are currently being purchased and slaughtered for the release in the market as a precautionary step.


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