SEOUL, S KOREA - South Korea said Wednesday it had destroyed more than three million livestock as it battles the worst outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in decades, amid concerns that it could spread to the rest of Asia.
The agriculture ministry said it stepped up emergency disinfection as the outbreak showed few signs of abating after being reported in 148 locations.
The ministry has increased the number of quarantine officials at hundreds of disinfection checkpoints since the annual exodus for Lunar New Year holidays began on Tuesday, with some 31 million people on the move during the period.
People have been advised not to travel to areas hit by the highly contagious animal disease.
The ministry said all visitors and vehicles should undergo disinfection before they enter any of the locations hit by the outbreak.
The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation said last week that the outbreak in South Korea was the worst seen in 50 years.
It coincides with the Lunar New Year festivities when South Koreans and other Asians travel widely, posing a threat of further contagion, the UN agency said, urging Asia's veterinary and border control authorities to be on alert.
Foot-and-mouth 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 (more than $200 million), with nearly 50,000 animals slaughtered.
The agriculture ministry has also detected the highly contagious virus in 40 locations since December 31.
More than five million chickens, ducks and other birds have been culled.
South Korea has been hit by avian influenza three times, with the last outbreak in April 2008. --AFP