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Thursday, 6 April, 2000, 09:48 GMT 10:48 UK
Cattle disease fears spread
Govenment officials spray disinfectant on cattle to stop the disease spreading
South Korea is temporarily closing down all its livestock markets to stop the spread of foot-and-mouth disease throughout the country.

About 134 livestock markets will remain closed until the end of the month, affecting 18% of South Korea's livestock transactions.

South Korea made the move after the deadly disease spread to seven western areas, two weeks after it was discovered in cattle in farms, north of Seoul.
An increasing amount of farmers are taking their livestock to slaughter

Since the outbreak of the disease, the authorities have slaughtered 400 cattle and pigs and inoculated 110,000 others.

Mass inoculation

They plan to inoculate the country's 11 million cattle and pig population and have imposed a ban on the movement of livestock in infected areas.

Foot-and-mouth disease is caused by a highly-infectious virus, spread through air, fodder or from farm to farm.

It is thought the current outbreak was caused by imports of infected straw.

The facts about foot-and-mouth disease
Cannot be transmitted to humans
Affects mainly cattle and pigs
Spread through air, fodder or farms
Highly infectious and usually fatal
Characterised by high temperatures and mouth blisters
The disease affects cows, pigs and other cloven-hoofed animals, and humans cannot catch the disease. Affected animals suffer from a sudden rise in temperature and mouth blisters. It can easily spread and affect whole herds.

An outbreak of the disease in Taiwan three years ago wiped out Taiwan $1.55 billion-a-year pork-export industry.

Economic impact

Korean authorities have yet to release official estimates of the disease's economic impact. The total value of the cattle and pig industry last year was $2.78 billion, or 0.7%, of gross domestic product.

However, industry sources have said if foot and mouth were to spread nationwide, the impact on Korea's livestock and related industries would be tougher than the 1997 financial crisis.

South Korea does not export beef, but it does export pork, and pork exporters had forecast $400 million worth of pork exports this year.

Seoul shop
People cannot catch foot-and-mouth but Seoul consumers are reluctant to buy pork and beef
Japan has suspended beef and pork imports, while Australia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and China have banned imports.

Despite the lack of danger to humans, South Korean consumers are shunning beef and pork products for fear of infection.

Japan problems

Prices of beef and pork have dropped slightly as the number of people going to restaurants has fallen.

Japan is also fearing the spread of the disease after discovering foot-and-mouth disease in 10 cows in the southern prefecture of Miyazaki.

It has also suffered exports bans. However, the movement of livestock has only been restricted in affected areas.

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See also:

04 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Cattle disease spreads in South Korea
03 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
South Korea tackles fatal cattle disease
02 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Fatal cattle disease hits South Korea
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