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Swine fever from Africa found again in Korea

Sept 07,2018
The Korean government is trying to keep a disease deadly to pigs from being brought in from China.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Rural Affairs said on Wednesday that it found evidence of the African swine fever virus in processed pork products brought into Korea by Chinese tourists through Jeju International Airport in late August.

It was the second time a gene test confirmed the discovery of the virus in an imported pork product in Korea. The first time was last month.

The Agriculture Ministry said the virus found was the same as in an outbreak in China.

As of Wednesday evening, there were nine confirmed outbreaks of the disease in China, as confirmed by the Korean Agriculture Ministry, the latest one in the city of Jiamusi in eastern Heilongjiang Province on Wednesday. The virus killed 12 pigs on a farm there, according to the Korean Agriculture Ministry. Nearly 40,000 pigs were culled, according to some estimates.

African swine fever is a lethal hemorrhagic disease normally spread by ticks.

The virus has no effect on humans, but the highly pathogenic strain is deadly for pigs, which means farmers must cull infected pigs when the virus is found on their farms, causing tremendous losses.

The United Nations called an emergency meeting after the ninth case of the infectious virus was confirmed on Wednesday and has warned that the disease could jump borders to other parts of Asia.

Animal experts said the outbreak in China last month is the first case of the virus being reported in East Asia.

“There is no known cure or vaccine for the disease at this moment, and it becomes very difficult to stop its spread once it starts,” said an official from the Agriculture Ministry.

The Korean Agriculture Ministry has been ramping up its quarantine measures at major international airports across the country since the first virus was discovered on Aug. 24 in Chinese food brought in by a Korean.

“The possibility of spreading is low because the products in which the traces of the virus was found are processed foods,” said the official from the ministry.

It’s not clear whether the virus in the food products is still alive and capable of infecting animals.

“We need to make sure that the virus has not survived through a culture test [which would take about three to four weeks],” the official said.

BY CHOI HYUNG-JO [choi.hyungjo@joongang.co.kr]
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