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South Korea tries to contain foot-and-mouth outbreak

By Jiyeon Lee, CNN
  • The disease has affected almost all regions of the country
  • The latest outbreak began on a pig farm in November
  • Country is also dealing with bird flu outbreak

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) -- South Korea confirmed two additional cases of foot-and-mouth disease Thursday, as it struggles to contain the disease that has already spread rapidly across the nation and cost the country millions of dollars in exports.

The Korea Customs Service announced that exports of beef and pork dropped by 96% in December compared to the previous year, after the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in late November 2010.

The country has so far culled more than 1.3 million livestock, and plans to vaccinate more than a million, according to the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

The disease has affected almost all regions across the country with large numbers of local governments cancelling large-scale events as a preventive measure against the spreading of the disease.

Foot-and-mouth disease first broke out in the country on November 28 last year on a pig farm in the southern city of Andong.

In addition to foot-and-mouth disease, the spreading of bird flu has put the government on high alert. It had confirmed 16 cases as of Tuesday and heightened its alert level from "yellow" to "orange," the second highest of the four step alert system, according to the farm ministry.

The ministry has also ordered the closing of traditional markets that sell live chickens and ducks for 15 days.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture describes foot-and-mouth disease as "a severe, highly contagious viral disease of cattle and swine."

"Since it spreads widely and rapidly, and because it has grave economic as well as clinical consequences, FMD is one of the animal diseases that livestock owners dread most," the USDA website says.

Foot-and-mouth disease is caused by a virus, and it can spread in numerous ways. There are vaccines, but they "must be matched to the specific type and subtype of virus causing the outbreak," the USDA says.

Foot-and-mouth disease is "one of the most difficult animal infections to control," the USDA says. "Animals and animal byproducts from areas known to be affected are prohibited entry into this country."