|A car passes through a quarantine checkpoint in Korea National Arboretum in Pocheon, Gyeonggi Province, Tuesday. /Yonhap|
By Bahk Eun-ji
The government will create 10-kilometer radius buffer zones around farms infected with African swine fever (ASF) in northwestern Gyeonggi and Gangwon provinces, as part of efforts to stem the spread of the disease.
The farms subject to the zones are in Goyang, Pocheon, Yangju, Dongducheon and Yeoncheon in Gyeonggi Province, and Cheorwon in Gangwon Province where the quarantine authorities are doubling their disinfection efforts. The decision by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs follows the confirmation of the last infection in Gimpo, northwest of Seoul, Oct. 2. Since then, all other suspected cases have tested negative.
"In the buffer zone, vehicles moving in and out will be controlled, and all agricultural facilities will be subject to in-depth checkups and disinfection," a ministry official said. "Quarantine checkpoints will also be set up on major thoroughfares connected to southern parts of Gyeonggi Province to control vehicles carrying livestock products."
To stem any further outbreaks, the ministry also plans to take test samples from farms every week for three weeks considering the incubation period of the disease. In addition, the agriculture ministry earlier began purchasing all pigs outside a 3-kilometer boundary of farms infected with ASF in Paju and Gimpo for slaughter and safety checks on meat.
Since the first outbreak here Sept. 17, the country has seen 13 confirmed cases.
ASF is not harmful to humans, but it is fatal and highly contagious among pigs. No vaccines or cures are available, and culling is considered the only way to prevent its spread. The disease is typically spread by leftover feed or by direct contact with people or wild animals carrying the virus.
The government had already culled more than 150,000 pigs at the 13 infected farms, and quarantine officials have carried out intensive operations to prevent the virus from spreading to other parts of the country.
Meanwhile, the ministry has yet to discover the vector bringing the virus into the country, although military officials found a dead wild boar carrying the virus in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) bordering North Korea last week. The Ministry of National Defense ordered border guards to shoot any wild boars trying to cross the DMZ. This was the first time the virus has been found in a wild boar since August last year, when the outbreak began in China.
Since then, speculation has surfaced that wild boars crossing the border from the North were the cause of the spread of the virus in the South. In response, the military began spraying disinfectant in the DMZ by helicopter last week in a bid to contain the spread of the virus. No new confirmed ASF cases have been reported in the past five days.