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ASF confirmed in North Korea as spread across Asia continues

3rd Jun 2019 / By Alistair Driver

North Korea has reported its first case of African swine fever, as the spread of the virus across Asia continues. 

pigs ChinaNorth Korea informed the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) on May 30 that it had detected its first outbreak ASF at the Buksang cooperative farm in Chagang-Do, near the border with China. Out 99 pigs on the farm, 77 were infected and the the remaining 22 were culled. 

It had long been suspected that the disease was in North Korea. 

South Korea is now stepping up its defences against the virus, but fears it could be vulnerable. Quarantine measures and blood tests will be stepped up in 350 pig farms near the border, while fences and traps will be installed near the farms to prevent pigs from coming into contact with wild boars that roam in and out of North Korea.

Oh Soon-min, director of quarantine policies at South Korea’s agriculture ministry, said: “While North Korea’s Jagang province, where the outbreak of the African swine fever was confirmed, is near the border between North Korea and China, we do believe this is a serious situation as there is a possibility that the disease can spread toward the South.”

ASF has been branded the most serious animal health disease ever, as it spreads beyond China, where some analysts predict up to 200 million pigs could die or be culled this year, with massive implications for the meat and feed industry globally.

Outbreaks of the disease have already been reported in almost every region of mainland China.Beijing has said its breeding herd is 22% smaller than this time last year, but many in the industry say the impact of the disease could be much greater.

For example, Jim Long, president of Canadian genetics company Genesus, predicted, following a visit to China, that the loss of the sow herd could be anything from 40-60%, with the big drop in pig numbers starting in August.

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) said it will take years for China to contain the virus.

More than 2,000 new cases of ASF have been confirmed in Vietnam, over 1.3 million domestic pigs affected, since the first case was recorded in February, according to the OIE. The virus has also spread to Cambodia, Mongolia, Hong Kong.

Dirk Pfeiffer, a veterinary epidemiologist at City University of Hong Kong, said: “This is probably the most serious animal health disease [the world has] had for a long time, if not ever.”