UPDATE : 2019.12.6 FRI 17:52
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S. Korea confirms 2 new African swine fever cases

South Korea confirmed two more cases of the African swine fever (ASF) outbreak Thursday to raise the total number of cases to 13 in less than three weeks, with quarantine officials bracing for a further spread of the deadly animal virus amid Typhoon Mitag.

The latest case was reported from Gimpo, northwest of Seoul, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Earlier in the morning, another confirmed case was reported from Paju, adjacent to the North Korean border.

Quarantine officials begin the culling of pigs in Paju, north of Seoul, on Oct. 2, 2019, after a new confirmed case of African swine fever was reported in the area earlier in the day. (Yonhap)

Paju is where the country's first ASF case was confirmed on Sept. 17. South Korea confirmed two ASF cases in the area Wednesday as well.

Most of the confirmed ASF cases were from Ganghwa Island, northwest of Seoul, and Paju, each accounting for five cases.

All confirmed cases have been reported in areas adjacent to the border with North Korea. Suspected cases from south of Seoul have all tested negative.

With four new ASF cases being confirmed in just two days, quarantine officials are currently struggling to contain the further spread of the disease to other areas.

Concerns have been rising as Typhoon Mitag made landfall in southwestern South Korea on Wednesday night with heavy rain and strong winds, which may hinder quarantine operations as they clean away disinfectants already spread on the ground near pig farms and related facilities.

"As the effects of the quarantine operations have significantly weakened due to the typhoon, we need to stay alert," Agricultural Minister Kim Hyeon-soo said, urging provincial governments to utilize all available equipment.

"We should immediately apply disinfectants as soon as the rain stops later in the day," he added.

Quarantine officials are also on high alert as one of the farms confirmed to be affected with ASF on Wednesday had only 18 pigs and was not on their watchlist, causing concern that some pig farms are not tightly controlled.

The number of confirmed cases may rise further as the incubation period of ASF lasts up to 19 days as well.

South Korea's agricultural ministry earlier announced a 48-hour lockdown on all farms of Gyeonggi and Gangwon provinces, along with Incheon, effective as of 3:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

The ministry also has been banning all automobiles involved in the livestock industry from moving out of the northern areas of Gyeonggi Province.

Although ASF is not harmful to people, it is fatal to pigs. There is no current cure, making culling the affected pigs the only viable option to prevent the spread of the virus.

Quarantine officials have been culling pigs within a 3-kilometer radius of infected farms.

The total number of pigs slaughtered or to be culled is set to well exceed 115,000 following the latest outbreaks -- roughly 1 percent of all pigs being raised in the country. More than half of the pigs in Paju have been culled.

As of Thursday morning, a total of 100,000 pigs were slaughtered.

The minister also urged quarantine officials to pay extra caution to completely securing the burial sites to prevent any leak of the virus, including checking fences to prevent contact with wild boars.

The first-ever case in South Korea came about four months after North Korea reported its first confirmed case of the disease at a farm near its border with China to the World Organization for Animal Health.

South Korea has been struggling to find what has brought the virus into the country, with possibilities including contaminated wild boars or water from the North. (Yonhap)

Shin Jin-sun  edt@koreapost.com

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