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South Korea struggles to control foot-and-mouth epidemic

By Paula Hancocks, CNN
This photo taken on December 25, 2010 shows a veterinarian vaccinating cattle at a farm in Goyang, 30 kilometers northwest of Seoul.
This photo taken on December 25, 2010 shows a veterinarian vaccinating cattle at a farm in Goyang, 30 kilometers northwest of Seoul.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • More than 2 million animals killed
  • Nation expects to lose more than $1 billion
  • 129 cases confirmed
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Seoul, South Korea (CNN) -- About 134,000 South military personnel are involved in efforts to contain the country's worst ever foot-and-mouth outbreak, the agriculture ministry said Thursday.

Authorities have killed more than 2 million animals, and fear the epidemic could cost the country $1.4 billion, the ministry said.

The country has lost millions of dollars in exports already from the 129 confirmed cases, according to the ministry for food, agriculture, forestry and fisheries. The $1.4 billion cost takes into account vaccinations, culling and compensation for farmers.

Up to 22% of the swine population is being culled and almost 4% of cattle. Vaccinations are continuing across the country as the government tries to limit the number of animals that need to be destroyed.

The government introduced travel restrictions for livestock and ordered cattle markets to be shut shortly after the latest outbreak on November 28 in the southern city of Andong.

As a result, pork and beef imports are up and retail prices of both have risen almost 9% in just one month.

The spread of bird flu is also putting pressure on South Korean farmers, with almost 4 million birds being culled so far.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture describes foot-and-mouth disease as "a severe, highly contagious viral disease of cattle and swine." There are vaccines, but they must be matched to the specific type and subtype of virus causing the outbreak.

 
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