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||S.Korea steps up foot-and-mouth quarantine
South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak called Thursday for tighter quarantine measures to combat the rapid spread of the country's worst outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.
Since the highly contagious disease was first reported on November 29, about 948,000 cattle and pigs in 40 cities and counties have been culled, the agriculture ministry said.
South Korea has since lost about seven percent of its cattle and pigs with related losses estimated at more than one trillion won (890 million dollars), it said.
"Fundamental measures must be taken to contain (foot-and-mouth disease)," Lee told an emergency cabinet meeting, saying the government should step up quarantine measures and secure enough vaccine.
In a desperate attempt to contain the spread of the disease, the government has vaccinated cattle and pigs -- risking a longer export ban by overseas buyers.
It takes longer for a country that uses vaccinations to regain disease-free status from the World Organisation for Animal Health than when the disease is curbed solely by culling.
Agriculture Minister Yoo Jeong-Bok said his ministry would try to secure vaccines for 6.5 million animals by the end of this month.
The disease affects cloven-hoofed animals such as cattle, pigs, deer, goats and sheep.
Previous outbreaks in January and April last year cost more than 250 billion won with nearly 50,000 animals slaughtered.
The military has deployed 68,000 troops to help contain the disease while health officials were also placed on alert to curtail the spread of bird flu.
More than 200,000 birds were culled or will be slaughtered after the first outbreak of bird flu since May 2008 was reported last Friday at two farms in the central city of Cheonan and in the southwestern city of Iksan.
Health authorities have also placed quarantine zones to carry out emergency disinfection at three cities in south Jeolla province, where suspected bird flu cases were reported this week.
South Korea has been hit by avian influenza three times, with the last outbreak in April 2008.