SEOUL, Jan 18 (Reuters) - South Korea said on Tuesday it had culled about 15 percent of its combined pig and cattle population to contain outbreaks of foot-and-mouth, while it slaughtered three percent of its poultry population against bird flu.
Asia’s No.4 economy confirmed 120 cases of foot-and-mouth by Tuesday, up from last Friday’s 116 cases, and 26 cases of H5N1 avian influenza, up from 23 cases on Friday, in statements from the agriculture ministry.
The ministry said 2.1 million animals, mostly pigs, and 3.6 million poultry, mostly chicken, had been culled to be buried.
The nationwide outbreaks of foot-and-mouth originated in pigs in the city of Andong in North Gyeongsang province on Nov. 28, and rapidly-spreading outbreaks to six provinces triggered South Korea to expand vaccination nationwide.
“The government set a policy to minimise slaughter against foot-and-mouth, while utilising vaccination to prevent the disease,” a statement from the presidential office on Sunday quoted president Lee Myung-bak, who visited disinfection sites, as saying.
“Through the disinfection, I hope there will be fruitful outcomes before the Lunar New Year holidays,” he said, referring to the country’s biggest holidays when local meat demand usually peaks and the largest number of people move around for family reunions.
On top of the serious outbreaks of foot-and-mouth, South Korea also confirmed the first case of bird flu on Dec. 31 in ducks in the city of Cheonan, South Chungcheong province, and in chickens in the city of Iksan in North Jeolla province.
The country has no human cases of bird flu. Foot-and-mouth disease affects livestock including sheep, cows and pigs, while meat from infected animals is not harmful to humans.
South Korea, a net importer of beef, pork and poultry meat, found its meat imports jump last month to meet lost local supply due to outbreaks of foot-and-mouth but industry experts said future import gains might be short-lived. (Reporting by Cho Mee-young; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)