South Korea will expand foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) vaccination nationwide and import more vaccines, the agriculture ministry said on Wednesday quoting an emergency cabinet meeting to contain the fast-spreading disease. Two additional cases of FMD in the country's central and southeastern regions were confirmed on Thursday, despite nationwide quarantine and vaccination efforts.
South Korea has already vaccinated 1.2 million livestock against FMD since November in eight provinces of the total 16 and now plans to expand to reach animals across the country except Jeju Island.
"Today's meeting reviewed current measures and decided to strengthen preemptive measures," the agriculture ministry said in a statement.
The government would import more vaccines on top of those already imported or contracted to cover 11 million livestock. Before the outbreak, South Korea had inventory only for 300,000 doses.
Asia's fourth-largest economy has culled 10 percent of its cattle and pigs as it tries to contain the outbreak, triggering a spike in domestic beef and pork prices and exacerbating food inflation.
The agriculture ministry said local slaughter houses have been asked to work on holidays to boost meat supply, though increased imports are ruled out for now. FMD outbreaks prompted the total number of pigs and cattle slaughtered to stand at 1.4 million as of Wednesday, the ministry said, up from around 1 million last Friday.
South Korea is also battling an outbreak of avian flu, raising its alert level to 'watch' from 'caution' after detecting the H5N1 avian influenza virus at poultry farms in four provinces. There have been 34 suspected cases of bird flu in poultry, with 16 cases confirmed, the ministry said. Outbreaks of bird flu have prompted the authorities to cull 470,000 poultry, or 0.4 percent of domestic stock, a ministry official said on Wednesday, while continuing the quarantine of commercial duck and chicken breeding farms in affected areas.
Reprinted in part from Reuters.com