Highest alert level issued for foot-and-mouth disease
By Kim Rahn
The government raised the alert level for foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) to ”serious,” Wednesday, and established a pan-government crisis center to keep the deadly disease from spreading further.
The move comes one month after the first outbreak was reported. The crisis center — comprised of central and local government officials and police officers — will orchestrate quarantine, decontamination, vaccination and all other countermeasures that have been divided up among government agencies.
The measures were announced after related ministries held a meeting, and come after the highly contagious virus spread to five cities and provinces after the first outbreak in Andong, North Gyeongsang Province, on Nov. 29.
This is the first time here for the government to raise its alert level to the highest and form such a task force for an animal disease.
Public Administration and Security Minister Maeng Hyung-kyu asked people and cattle farm owners to cooperate in halting the spread of FMD.
“To prevent the virus from spreading further, it is required to thoroughly disinfect farm facilities and control access to farms. We ask livestock farm owners to immediately report any cases of the disease to the authorities and actively cooperate in the government’s quarantine measures,” the minister said in a statement.
In the crisis center, central government officials will coordinate related ministries and supervise local quarantine operations. Governments in regions where the disease has not broken out yet will also cooperate in operations, Minister Maeng said.
Some unaffected local governments have decided to halt the movement of cows and pigs in or out of their regions.
More manpower will be mobilized for quarantine operations in addition to some 150,000 officials currently engaged in the work.
Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoo Jeong-bok said the government has asked local authorities to minimize public gatherings in order to prevent the disease from spreading via human vectors.
Despite such efforts, it is worried FMD will spread nationwide, because the government has not been able to pinpoint why the disease broke out and how it has spread. A cow farm in Chungju, North Chungcheong Province, was confirmed to be infected Tuesday.
The government has vaccinated 236,000 cows at farms in 12 affected cities and counties. Some 523,000 cows and pigs have been slaughtered and buried so far, and losses are estimated to total 450 billion won.