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Foot and mouth strikes South Korea

May 6, 2002 Financial Times (London) by Andrew Ward
South Korea slaughtered 12,000 animals at the weekend as the country battled to contain an outbreak of foot and mouth disease, three weeks before thousands of tourists arrive in Seoul for the soccer World Cup finals.

Pigs at two farms south of Seoul were diagnosed as suffering from the highly infectious disease but tests at other locations proved negative yesterday, raising hopes that the plague could be stopped from spreading.

Hundreds of thousands of soccer fans are expected to travel between the 20 World Cup host cities in South Korea and co-host Japan, raising fears that the disease could be spread by visitors. However, Seoul said it was confident the outbreak would not disrupt the World Cup, pointing out that the disease was limited to rural areas away from soccer stadiums and tourist centres.

"Foot-and-mouth disease appears to have been contained, but what happens in the next two to three days is crucial," said Kim Dong-tae, minister of agriculture.

The outbreak dealt a blow to South Korea's livestock industry, which had only last week resumed exports of pork after a foot and mouth epidemic two years ago halted Dollars 400m (Pounds 275m) of annual shipments.

Japan, the biggest importer of South Korean meat, announced an emergency ban on imports of its neighbour's pork, beef and lamb on Saturday.

An outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the UK last year led to slaughter of 6.5m animals, costing the farming industry an estimated Pounds 1bn (Dollars 1.46bn). Severe damage was caused to the country's tourism industry as vast areas of countryside were shut down.

The disease attacks cloven-hoofed livestock such as cattle, pigs, sheep, goats and deer, causing blistering of feet and mouth, but is not dangerous to humans.

Fears that the disease had spread from pigs to cows in South Korea was yesterday proved unfounded but tests were being carried out at scores of slaughterhouses and farms surrounding the two confirmed outbreaks.

The government has put restrictions on movement of livestock around the country and ordered disinfection of vehicles and people leaving infected areas. Officials said vaccinating animals would be considered only if slaughter failed to prevent spread.

Scientists said the outbreak involved the same "Pan Asia 01" strain of foot and mouth that occurred in 2000. Speculation about the source of the disease ranged from imported hay and tourists to infected dust blown across the Yellow Sea from China. South Korea slaughtered 12,000 animals at the weekend as the country battled to contain an outbreak of foot and mouth disease, three weeks before thousands of tourists arrive in Seoul for the soccer World Cup finals.

Pigs at two farms south of Seoul were diagnosed as suffering from the highly infectious disease but tests at other locations proved negative yesterday, raising hopes that the plague could be stopped from spreading.

Hundreds of thousands of soccer fans are expected to travel between the 20 World Cup host cities in South Korea and co-host Japan, raising fears that the disease could be spread by visitors. However, Seoul said it was confident the outbreak would not disrupt the World Cup, pointing out that the disease was limited to rural areas away from soccer stadiums and tourist centres.

"Foot-and-mouth disease appears to have been contained, but what happens in the next two to three days is crucial," said Kim Dong-tae, minister of agriculture.

The outbreak dealt a blow to South Korea's livestock industry, which had only last week resumed exports of pork after a foot and mouth epidemic two years ago halted Dollars 400m (Pounds 275m) of annual shipments.

Japan, the biggest importer of South Korean meat, announced an emergency ban on imports of its neighbour's pork, beef and lamb on Saturday.

An outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the UK last year led to slaughter of 6.5m animals, costing the farming industry an estimated Pounds 1bn (Dollars 1.46bn). Severe damage was caused to the country's tourism industry as vast areas of countryside were shut down.

The disease attacks cloven-hoofed livestock such as cattle, pigs, sheep, goats and deer, causing blistering of feet and mouth, but is not dangerous to humans.

Fears that the disease had spread from pigs to cows in South Korea was yesterday proved unfounded but tests were being carried out at scores of slaughterhouses and farms surrounding the two confirmed outbreaks.

The government has put restrictions on movement of livestock around the country and ordered disinfection of vehicles and people leaving infected areas. Officials said vaccinating animals would be considered only if slaughter failed to prevent spread.

Scientists said the outbreak involved the same "Pan Asia 01" strain of foot and mouth that occurred in 2000. Speculation about the source of the disease ranged from imported hay and tourists to infected dust blown across the Yellow Sea from China.

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