North Korea takes emergency steps to stop spread of African swine fever

12 June 2019, 14:09 | Updated: 13 June 2019, 10:29

North Korea has broken its silence on an outbreak of African swine fever (ASF), with claims it has taken emergency measures to prevent the spread of the disease.

The virus does not affect humans but it is fatal and highly contagious to pigs and wild boars.

South Korea's agriculture ministry claimed the North reported an outbreak to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) late last month, but this is the first time it has made any official comment.

It is claimed Pyongyang said 77 out of 99 pigs had died from the disease at a farm near the China border.

Since the first outbreak of ASF in East Asia was reported in China in early August last year, the virus has spread across the country and reached Vietnam.

Rodong Sinmun, North Korea's state newspaper said on Wednesday that nationwide steps were being carried out to contain it, quoting leader Kim Jong Un as saying "prevention is the key to production in livestock industry".

"Increasing livestock production goes hand-in-hand with raising farm animals safe from various diseases," he said.

"Once highly contagious diseases like African swine fever are spread, herds of farm animals could die."

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North Korea raises mainly chickens, ducks and rabbits - and according to data from Statistic Korea - in 2017, the North's pig population was 2.6m.

Preventative measures are said to include disinfecting farms and restricting sales of pork and processed meat.

Following the outbreak in the North, South Korea has taken action of its own, near the shared border to keep the viral disease away.

So far, no further cases have been reported in North Korea.