South Korea on Tuesday reported its first cases of African swine fever, becoming the latest country hit by the disease that has killed pigs from China to North Korea, pushing up pork prices worldwide.
Five pigs found dead at a farm in Paju, a city near the inter-Korean border, were confirmed to have been infected with the virus, an official with Seoul's agriculture ministry said.
At this point, it's too early to confirm if the case stemmed from the North, the official added. Seoul's agriculture minister Kim Hyun-soo said 3,950 pigs from three farms in Paju were to be culled.
The virus is not harmful to humans but causes hemorrhagic fever in pigs that is almost always fatal. There is no antidote or vaccine and the only known way to prevent the disease from spreading is a mass cull of affected livestock.
The confirmed cases in the South came around three months after Pyongyang told the World Organization for Animal Health that dozens of pigs had died from the disease at a farm near the Chinese border, according to the South's agriculture ministry.
In June, Seoul said the disease was highly likely to enter the country from the North and ordered fences to be erected at farms along the border to prevent possible contact between pigs and wild boar.
There are around 6,700 pig farms across South Korea and pig farming accounts for 40 percent of the total livestock industry.
In May, the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization said pork prices had risen by up to 50% both in China and on the Chicago futures exchange as a result of the outbreak.
Last month, it said almost five million pigs in Asia had died or been culled because of the spread of the disease.
Meanwhile in Japan officials announced they had culled 753 pigs in Saitama Prefecture north of Tokyo after detecting an outbreak of swine fever, the Yomiuri newspaper said
The cull was necessary after it was determined that pigs raised in the prefecture for shipment to central Japan were infected, the Yomiuri said.
Saitama also decided to halt shipments from two other pig farms in the area of the outbreak, the Yomiuri said.
Last year, Japan confirmed the first outbreak of swine flu in 26 years in the country. The fever was found in a farm in the Gifu Prefecture, central Japan.
The fever detected in Japan is a different strain from the deadly African swine fever that China has been battling, Japan's agriculture ministry has previously said.
Japan is the world's 10th largest pork producer, and exports about 12 billion yen (US$111 million) worth of pork products annually.
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