A farmer closes the gate to a pig farm in Yanggu, a town in South Korea's northeastern province of Gangwon, on Tuesday, to disinfect the farm following the discovery of the first case of African swine fever in South Korea at a pig farm in Paju, north of Seoul, the same day. Photo by Yonhap
Sept. 17 (UPI) -- South Korea is on alert Tuesday to prevent the spread of African swine fever after the first case of the animal disease was confirmed near the border with North Korea.
The agriculture ministry said it began to slaughter some 4,000 pigs as a precautionary move.
Kim Hyeon-soo, minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs, said quarantine officials are set to complete the culling of the pigs at three farms, including the one where the disease was detected, in Paju, just south of the inter-Korean border, by Tuesday.
"We will make our efforts to prevent the spread of African swine fever," Kim said in a news conference at a government building in Sejong, an administrative hub located 80 miles southeast of Seoul.
The move came hours after South Korea confirmed the case of the highly contagious virus at the farm where five pigs died Monday.
The two other farms are located about 12 miles from the one where the disease was detected.
South Korea launched an epidemiological investigation to try to determine the exact cause of the outbreak of the highly contagious virus, Kim said.
The owner of the farm where the disease broke out did not use leftover food. The farm has no windows and it has fences to prevent possible contact between his pigs and wild boars. The owner of the farm has never visited a foreign country, according to Kim.
South Korea said it will disinfect some 6,300 pig farms across the country and inspect the conditions of pigs. The ministry did not disclose details on how many pig farms are located near the border with North Korea.
The first confirmed 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.
North Korean media outlets have reported nationwide preventive efforts on the disease, though they have yet to confirm any additional cases. The North has not responded to Seoul's offer for cooperation to stem the spread of the disease across the border.
An official with the unification ministry handling inter-Korean affairs said they will contact North Korea again concerning possible cooperation after the results of the ongoing probe into how the disease entered South Korea are concluded.
Since its outbreak in China in August last year, the disease has spread to neighboring countries, including Mongolia and Vietnam.
South Korea imposed a nationwide standstill on all pig farms, slaughter houses and feed factories for 48 hours, beginning at 6:30 a.m.
This means any animal, person or equipment may not be removed from farms for the duration of the standstill, while those already en route to other farms or related facilities must find a secure place to wait out the temporary lockdown, the ministry said.
The animal disease does not affect humans but is deadly to pigs. There are currently no vaccines nor cures for the disease.