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Initial response matters following the occurrence of the first ASF case in Korea

Initial response matters following the occurrence of the first ASF case in Korea

Posted September. 18, 2019 09:45,   

Updated September. 18, 2019 09:45


An ASF case was confirmed at a pig farm located in Paju, Gyeonggi Province. Last year, African Swine Flu occurred in some neighboring Asian countries including China, Vietnam and Myanmar. The virus was reported in North Korea on May 30. In response, the South Korean authorities have carried out quarantine measures, failing to prevent the virus from breaking out in the country. Although ASF does not affect humans, it can be dangerous for pigs because there is not any vaccine and treatment. It is called the pig plague due to its mortality rate of 100 percent. The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs announced that it slaughtered 3,950 pigs in the affected farm and two nearby ones as soon as the case was confirmed on Monday morning. At the same time, it issued a movement ban on 91 pig farms in Paju.

The causes and routes of the flu should be identified first so that thorough quarantine measures can be taken accordingly. However, it is hard to figure out where the virus came from given that neither the farm owner nor foreign workers have recently been abroad and that the affected farm is equipped with a wild boar prevention fence although it is near North Korea. The ministry and regional municipalities should make a concerted effort to identify the outbreak’s causes and prevent the virus from spreading further.

Quarantine experts say that this week or so is a critical time for the authorities to contain the spread of the swine flu. Back in 2010, foot and mouth disease broke out to spread across the country due to lack of initial response. Being late for follow-up measures, the authorities had to slaughter more pigs than needed, which wreaked havoc on livestock farms. The authorities should make sure it never repeats itself.

As soon as the ASF case was reported, the auction price of pork spiked up at joint markets across the country. It is expected that it will put upward pressure on the consumer price sooner or later. The only way out is to end the outbreak by tightening quarantine measures as soon as possible for the sake of price stability. As ASF does not affect humans, it is believed that there is not any health issue with eating pork products available in the market. While putting extra effort into preventing against the spread of the virus, the government should help raise public awareness of the issue so that domestic pig farms can avoid unreasonable harm due to reductions in pork consumption.

Kwang-Hyun Kim kkh@donga.com