|People who live in villages located behind the Civilian Control Line stage a protest at the Unification Bridge in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, Friday, calling on the government to lift a travel ban on the area and instead designate it as a special disaster area. The government has banned people from entering the region for more than a month to tackle the spread of African swine fever. / Yonhap|
By Kim Jae-heun
Since the last confirmed case of African swine fever (ASF), Oct. 9, the deadly animal disease has not been reported on any farms here for a month.
However, the quarantine authorities remain vigilant as more wild boars infected with ASF have been found.
The nation's first case of ASF was detected in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, Sept. 17, and since then, the government has been taking intense preventive measures against the disease. Some experts say it has an effective control on the spread of the epidemic to other regions.
Still, nearly 435,000 pigs have been killed due to a total of 14 ASF cases in Paju, Yeoncheon, Gimpo and Ganghwa Island, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
The government has decided to offer a total of 530 million won to the farms that participated in the preventive measure to slaughter their pigs. Those that have not registered their farms to the ministry or did not follow the government's order to kill the infected pigs will not receive money from the support fund.
"As we are at a stage of taking preventive measures to fight the epidemic, we still have to be ready for any possible outbreaks," a ministry official said. "We have to keep our quarantine level to the highest and make sure we do our best."
On the border area with North Korea, the government is cooperating with the private sector and the military to capture or kill wild boars to make sure they don't spread the disease.
Despite the month-long hiatus, the growing number of wild boars with the ASF virus is worrying quarantine officials amid concerns over additional spread of the animal disease.
Since the first case was confirmed in early October, there have been 22 confirmations from wild boars, outnumbering the 14 from farmed pigs infected with the disease.
As a result, the government has been mobilizing soldiers and civilian hunters to hunt down wild boars in designated areas in the border region.
Meanwhile, the government believes it will take longer than six months for affected farms to raise pigs again in normal conditions.
By the government's standard operating procedure on the epidemic, the farms can resume pig farming after a minimum of 120 days to allow for the various examinations the government will carry out and the following travel ban period.
But that is only the minimum period required by the SOP and experts says it will take longer.
"It is the first time that ASF broke out in Korea and unlike avian influenza and foot-and-mouth disease, the virus is likely to relapse at any time. It is our top priority that ASF does not spread again after the farms bring the pigs back," an agriculture ministry official said.