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(LEAD) S. Korea orders pig vaccination amid raging FMD
SEOUL, Jan. 6 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's quarantine authorities said Thursday that they will start vaccinating pigs as foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is rapidly spreading throughout the country forcing a massive cull of livestock.

   The farm ministry said it will give shots to 210,000 pigs at 1,456 farms in the Gyeonggi region surrounding Seoul and North Chungcheong and South Chungcheon provinces in the central part of the country.

   "The shots will mostly be given to brood sows that frequently come into contact with people and are most exposed to the highly contagious disease," Lee Sang-kil, a deputy farm minister, said.

   To vaccinate animals, Seoul plans to acquire at least 8 million doses of FMD vaccines at a cost of 6.5 billion won (US$5.7 million) by the end of the month, with some 200,000 doses being borrowed from Japan, he said.

   The decision comes after the number of animals culled has topped the 1 million mark since the first case was confirmed on Nov. 29. Seoul initially moved to vaccinate cattle on Dec. 25 because they are more vulnerable to the disease than pigs. Around 1.2 million cows have been vaccinated so far with numbers continuing to go up.

   Of the 3.4 million heads of cattle in the country, 2.7 percent have been culled while 8.6 percent of the 9.4 million pigs have been destroyed to prevent further spread of the disease.

   Quarantine authorities said earlier in the day that they detected four additional cases of the highly contagious disease. They said 55,731 pigs and 10 heads of cattle have been destroyed at farms in Chungcheong and Gyeonnggi Province along with animals within a 500-meter radius of the farms as a precautionary measure.

   Lee said that starting Friday, the farm minister, in cooperation with Korea Immigration Services and the Korea Customs Service, will begin compulsory border decontamination of 103,000 people engaged in livestock work, such as livestock farmers and veterinarians.

   "People and baggage belonging to livestock industry workers will be required to go through a thorough decontamination process upon returning to South Korea," the official said.

   He said Seoul is in the process of passing a new law that can allow authorities to take criminal action for non-compliance.

   The farm ministry said 810 billion won has been used so far in dealing with losses incurred by the latest outbreak, although losses may eventually exceed 1 trillion won since FMD is spreading rapidly in some parts of the country, with authorities concerned that it could hit the Jeolla region on the southwestern coast.

   FMD is highly contagious and affects all cloven-hoofed animals, such as cattle, pigs, deer, goats and buffalo. It is classified as a "List A" disease by the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health, although it is harmless to humans.

   The country was hit by the disease in 2000, 2002 and two more times early last year. Before the latest outbreaks, Seoul had used FMD vaccines only once, in 2000.

   yonngong@yna.co.kr
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