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Foot-and-Mouth Disease Spreads Rapidly Throughout Korea Updated: 2011-01-07 00:00:00 KST

Welcome back.
Beginning from November 2010 Korea has been struggling to fight against the worst outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the nation's history.
Despite nationwide quarantine efforts FMD is spreading rapidly now across six cities and provinces so far.

And the government established a pan-government crisis center for the first time in history but the infectious virus continues to spread with more than 900-thousand livestock culled as of now.
We are now joined by Arirang Today's Kim Hyo-sun to tell us more on the nation's worst outbreak of FMD.
Hello Hyosun.

[Reporter : ] Hi Sean and Conn-young.
With the situation now escalating into an unprecedented loss for the livestock industry the Korean government is exerting its full efforts to halt FMD from spreading.
And the owners have no choice but to watch their livestock being put down.
Let's first take a look.


During the first days of the New Year a time for many to celebrate with joy Korea has been battling against the worst outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in its history.
The Foot-and-mouth disease or FMD, is highly contagious and affects cattle, swine and other groups of animals.
It is characterized by high fever and blisters inside the mouth, resulting in drooling or foamy saliva.
The FMD which was first detected at a pig farm in Andong of North Gyeongsang Province on November 29th, 2010 has since spread across the nation even to Gyeonggi Province which is located in the northern part of the country.
The highly contagious disease has now hit five provinces including Gangwon and both North and South Chungcheong and the government confirmed that the number of officially recorded cases stood at 85 as of January 4th.
So far over 900-thousand livestock have been put down across the nation according to the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
The Korean government raised the alert level for FMD to 'serious' establishing a pan-government crisis center for the first time in history.


[Interview : ] "The National Emergency Management Agency will oversee the overall situation, promote cooperation among related ministries and focus on disease control on the regional government level."

Comprised of central and regional government officials the crisis centers are being set up in provinces where the FMD has been detected with the hope of quickly eradicating it.


[Reporter : Kim Hyo-sun
hyosun2@arirangtv.com] "The situation room here at Goyang City of Gyeonggi Province is also busy around the clock with officials trying to fight the highly infectious disease."

Instead of working from their ordinary office some city government officials have moved to special crisis centers.


[Interview : ] "We are divided into 8 teams in charge of burying the animals, after treatment, disease control and others. We also try to make sure all teams work accordingly and supervise the entire disease control efforts."

Since foot-and-mouth disease is highly contagious the officials have no moment to spare.


[Interview : ] "Since we are responsible for everything from supplies to personnel, we will be busy until the situation resolves."

They not only do office work but also dress themselves in hazmat suits and get ready to head out for field work.


[Interview : ] "We take care of the after treatment of stables or sites where the animals have been buried. We normally work until 4 or 5 o'clock in the afternoon."


[Interview : ] "A lot needs to be done at the sites where the animals have been buried. We have to spray abstergent fluid to prevent foot-and-mouth disease from spreading."

Dozens of officials who rolled up their sleeves for fieldwork have now become accustomed to their new responsibilities.
While some head to empty farms others also arrive at sterilizing posts scattered throughout the city.


[Reporter : Kim Hyo-sun
hyosun2@arirangtv.com] "Approximately 40 sterilizers are stationed throughout Goyang City to mitigate the further spread of FMD."

At this specific sterilizing post city councilmen are taking turns to keep all passying by vehicles sterilized.
Although they have a lot to take care of and working outdoors on icy cold winter days is not easy they say it is their duty to keep the city free of FMD.


[Interview : ] "At the post, we make sure that the sterilizer work properly. We sprinkle calcium chloride to keep the sterilizer from freezing."

They also say that having vehicles disinfected by passing through designated sterilizing points is crucial in preventing the disease from spreading at a fast pace.
On top of such efforts on the regional government level national zoos are also on high alert.
Seoul Zoo chose to put its animals off limits to visitors by closing its doors for the first ten days of 2011.
Although the transmission of the virus continues quickly leaving stock farmers with nothing but empty stables the government has not been able to pinpoint why the disease broke out in the first place and how it spread so rapidly.
Meanwhile many experts criticize the loopholes found in the related parties' countermeasures in fighting the disease.
First of all they say the nation's quarantine process is only superficial in that nothing is mandatory.
Pointing to some 9-thousand farmers who have entered the country without being quarantined many also say these farmers have not been unaware of the seriousness of the situation.
Weak enforcement of regulations on the government level lack of proper farming education and weak supervision on foreign workers from countries classified as FMD danger zones are also being considered as possible reasons for this epidemic of FMD.
This January was surely not a perfect beginning for domestic stock farmers.
The government recommends them not to put off their guards since the FMD virus has now began attacking pigs which are more vulnerable to the highly infectious disease as they are raised on larger farms than cattle.
Nevertheless, the government is hopeful that through these efforts and policies, the FMD will soon be eradicated from Korean farms and the country will be considered again as FMD free in the near future.



Now it looks like pigs are becoming another victim of FMD.

[Reporter : ] Yes, as they are more vulnerable to the virus the nation's quarantine authorities stated they will begin vaccinating pigs.
But making matters worse disinfectants are running out and there is a lack of manpower to support the quarantine activities.

The disease surely has damaged domestic livestock farmers from the beginning of this year.

[Reporter : ] Yes. And another concern is the price hike in beef and pork.
So before the situation gets out of control all efforts will payoff soon.

Thank you Hyosun for the report.

[Reporter : ] My pleasure.
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