▲ In total, 62,000 cows were vaccinated in the first round of preventative measures taken by the Jeju government. Photo courtesy Jeju Special Self-Governing Province
Foot-and-mouth disease first broke out at the end of November last year among the mainland pig population. It spread rapidly, and in response Jeju moved quickly to halt imports of beef, pork and chicken and put quarantine and prevention measures into play.
The numbers tell it all.
According to central government statistics, as of Feb. 8, 99.7 percent of the target slaughter and disposal of mainland cows, pigs, goats, deer and antelope is complete. Just 10,557 animals have yet to be disposed of, out of a total 3,225,823 slated for destruction on 5,769 farms.
Jeju Island, meanwhile, remains FMD-free and has slaughtered zero animals. Since the threat level was set to red, Jeju has vaccinated all 62,000 cows and 482,000 pigs on the island. Of those, a few dozen have died or been injured during the vaccination process.
“When you try to vaccinate the animal, you must immobilize it. Cows are very big and the injection is quite painful (it’s a thick mixture), so accidents can happen. Some smaller animals can die. Miscarriages are possible with pregnant animals receiving these injections,” said Cho Seong Cheol, a veterinarian with the Livestock Affairs Division of Jeju Special Self-Governing Province. He said the government will compensate the 53 farms that reported problems, up to 80 percent of the cost of the animal, from the first round of vaccinations that finished recently.
The second round of vaccinations will start at the end of February or early March. “Foot-and-mouth disease control is very different from that of the mainland. Jeju has its own special regulations ... We are strictly prohibiting imports and exports of animals so that is our main system of control,” said Cho Duk Jun, director of the Livestock Affairs Division. “To prevent foot-and-mouth on Jeju Island, we thoroughly disinfect trucks, farm-related equipment and take care with manure.”
“We have an SOS number for farmers to contact us. It is 1588-4060 and 710-2929,” Cho Seong Cheol said. The government normally has 27 veterinarians on staff for consultations. He said they did not add any more vets due to the outbreak but rather are putting resources toward prevention.
“We already closed three Olle walking trails — 1, 2, and 9 — and detoured 3, 11 and 12 [to minimize the exposure of the farms],” he said. “Olle is very cooperative. They even placed a big placard in the airport to let people know [about] the changes due to foot-and-mouth disease.”
▲ A second round of island-wide vaccinations is slated for the end of this month. Photo courtesy Jeju Special Self-Governing Province
As reported by The Jeju Weekly earlier in the year, foot-and-mouth has hit festivals and parts of the tourism industry hard. Prominent New Year’s events like the Seongsan Sunrise Festival, the 12th Seogwipo Penguin Swim, and the Deulbu Fire Festival were all canceled to prevent any potential spread by tourists from the mainland.
This past Lunar New Year, with more tourists coming to the island than ever before, the government stepped up a prevention program to keep Jeju free of foot-and-mouth and avian influenza.
“We also ensure areas where tourists pass have disinfectant mats and information, such as hotels and airports. We also issue a lot of press releases to keep people informed and encourage cooperation in prevent[ing] the spread of FMD,” director Cho said, who insisted that the disinfectant — composed of citric acid — and the animal vaccinations are totally safe.
Despite being FMD-free for now, the government is warning that the disease incubation period could be masking an imminent outbreak, so the extreme measures thus taken must be maintained.
During the Lunar Holiday, for example, some 33 disease surveillance centers around the island worked non-stop, including carrying out disinfection measures in rural areas on Feb. 2 and Feb. 9. Two independent government teams travelled to the various centers for spot inspections. Between Feb. 3 and Feb. 5, Jeju Governor Woo Keun Min made stops to the Emergency Management Agency, Jeju International Airport, and Jeju Harbor to show his support and reinforce to staff the crucial importance of their efforts to keep Jeju infection free.
According to some reports, access to farms — even by family members coming from the mainland — was sometimes restricted. And in advance of the holiday deluge of visitors, some 9,540 Jeju households received SMS text messages detailing preventative measures.
(Translation by Koh Yu Kyung)
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