N. Korea may have foot-and-mouth outbreak

01/18/2011 07:32

From VancouverSun

SEOUL - North Korea has apparently suffered an outbreak of foot-and-mouth, a Seoul official said Tuesday, as South Korea battles its own worst-ever incidence of the highly contagious animal disease.

Unification Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-Ju quoted members of charity groups and other officials who have recently visited the communist country, saying the scope and origin of the outbreak is as yet unknown.

"We've heard quite a bit about the outbreak (in the North) from recent visitors to the country," Lee told AFP.

"But the North hasn't officially confirmed anything either via state media or by reporting to international health organisations."

Yonhap news agency, quoting an unidentified Seoul official, said the North had deployed its military to help disinfect farms across the nation since the outbreak was reported in December.

JoongAng Ilbo newspaper said Pyongyang had blocked road traffic in nearby areas and ordered residents to refrain from travelling.

"We've learned that the North is unable to carry out quarantine and sanitisation efforts properly due to lack of necessary medicines and equipment," the paper quoted an intelligence official as saying.

It said the epidemic may take a toll on the North's military, which has raised livestock at military facilities since the early 2000s to feed its troops.

People in the North, which suffers persistent food shortages, have been eating infected cattle and pigs instead of burying them, the official was quoted as saying.

Foot-and-mouth affects cloven-hoofed animals such as cattle, pigs, deer, goats and sheep. It is harmless to humans.

The secretive nation in 2007 suffered an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, prompting Seoul to send experts, medicines and equipment. Relations have worsened sharply since then.


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