South Korea has raised its foot-and-mouth disease alert to the highest level, culling and burying 480,000 pigs, sheep and cattle, and vaccinating livestock to contain a fast-spreading outbreak of the disease.
The disease has prompted the authorities to shut down all livestock markets in the country, leading to a rise in the wholesale price of beef and pork and a possible rise in exports from the United States, Australia and New Zealand.
“The disease is rapidly spreading in several regions simultaneously, and we are concerned of a possible spreading to unaffected areas,” the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said in a statement on Wednesday.
It said the government raised the alert of ‘watch’ to ‘seriousness’, the highest level, adding a central disaster centre was set up to be led by Agriculture Minister Yoo Jeong-bok.
The outbreak of foot-and-mouth, which affects livestock including sheep, cows and pigs, originated in pigs in the southeastern city of Andong in North Gyeongsang province on Nov. 28.
The disease and meat from infected animals are not harmful to humans. The number of the outbreak reports has soared to 88 cases, and of the total 60 cases were confirmed, the ministry said in another statement. South Korea has been conducting vaccination in badly affected areas on top of culling and burying.