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African Swine Fever (ASF) has caused mass deaths of pigs at farms in the South Hwanghae Province and North Hamgyong Province, according to reports. The North Korean government has now had to act fast to prevent further outbreaks, Daily NK reported.
Reports began to circulate last week that some 6,000 ducks, geese, pigs, goats and sheep had died of infectious diseases at a livestock complex in Kangwon Province.
Now, the problem seems to have escalated.
“Livestock disease[s] are spreading rapidly throughout the province,” a South Hwanghae Province-based source told Daily NK on Monday.
“The authorities have issued an order through the Cabinet that livestock disease control authorities send investigation teams made up of around 20 people to all the farms with outbreaks.”
From early May, pigs at farms in Haeju and Anak County reportedly started “issuing bloody froth from their snouts and mouths before collapsing onto the ground”.
Around 10 pigs in one pig pen were reported to have died from the disease, setting off alarm bells among the country’s livestock disease control authorities.
There have also been reports of similar mass deaths at farms in North Hamgyong Province, including in Gyongsong and Musan counties and in Chongjin.
These cases were immediately reported to the authorities.
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“On May 6, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un issued an order to the provincial, municipal and county people’s committees to have disease control officials thoroughly disinfect and quarantine all livestock, cremate all deceased animals and submit reports on progress of the disease control process,” a North Hamgyong Province-based source told Daily NK.
North Korean authorities have reportedly continued to emphasize that it is forbidden to consume the meat of the diseased livestock.
This appears to be a response to rumors saying that ASF and other infectious diseases affecting livestock are similar to the “common cold.”
Despite orders from the North Korean government to cremate the infected livestock or to bury them alive, these directives have frequently been disregarded according to Daily NK.
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North Koreans are reportedly selling infected meat at local markets or butcher the meat themselves to eat at home.
North Korean authorities attribute the further spread of infectious diseases in part to the fact that when the infected pork is consumed at individual homes and the scraps are tossed, the scraps eventually wind up as animal feed, continuing the cycle of infection.
Accordingly, the authorities have taken strong measures to monitor livestock farm workers, reasoning that they must be held responsible for ensuring that the diseased livestock are properly handled.
“The authorities are threatening that the theft of disease livestock [to sell at local markets or to eat] will be designated an act of treason, in the sense that such acts undermine the party’s disease control measures,” the source told Daily NK.
The outbreak comes as a surprise as North Korea is yet to report any cases of the coronavirus, with there currently being over 4 million confirmed cases across the globe.
North Korea has – and reportedly continues – to claim that it does not have any Covid-19 infections.
However, North Korean officials have set up a coronavirus quarantine facility to house “a large number” of people who are suffering from symptoms similar to those of Covid-19, a South Korean newspaper has reported.
The facility has reportedly been set up in Kilju County in North Korea’s Hamgyong Province – the northernmost province in the country.
The decision to set up a facility in the province itself marks a change – before now, people were allegedly being transported to Chongjin, the province’s capital, for treatment, Daily NK adds.
A source based in the province told Daily NK on May 12 that in Kilju county, along with Kilju village and a coal mining village, there had been over 40 people who were suspected of having caught Covid-19.
The source said: “The county has set aside a building to be used as a quarantine facility for the sick people.”
North Korea was the first country to suspend tourism and shut its borders in response to the pandemic, the BBC reports, doing so in the third week of January.
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