North Korea is struggling to contain foot and mouth disease, which was earlier reported in pigs and has now spread to cattle, officials from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Wednesday after returning from a visit to North Korean farms and markets to assess the outbreaks.
North Korean officials originally reported to the FAO and the World Organisation for Animal Health on Feb. 18 that foot and mouth disease (FMD) had affected 3,280 pigs in an area near the capital Pyongyang and killed 369, FAO health officer Carolyn Benigno said on Wednesday after a week-long visit to North Korea.
FAO officials found that the disease was still spreading among pigs and was also affecting cattle on at least two farms in a remote mountainous region in southern Kangwon province near the border with South Korea, she said.
“Foot and mouth disease was first reported on Jan. 8, on a pig farm near Pyongyang, and continued to spread in pigs despite containment measures taken by veterinary services,” Benigno told reporters at a briefing in Bangkok. “The first report to us is that FMD was in pigs, but when we were there, we received reports that some cattle were infected.”
The FAO officials visited the Pyongyang market, pig farms near Pyongyang and one cooperative cattle farm, where they saw four sick cows with lesions.
“The team was able to confirm that the FMD outbreak in DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) is still ongoing at the time of our visit,” Benigno said.
The FAO officials visited the DPRK after its chief veterinary officer requested emergency assistance to improve his staff’s ability to diagnose and control the disease, she said.
The FAO advised North Korea on basic control measures, including disinfecting farms and limiting people’s movement to prevent spread of the disease to other farms, and is now preparing to provide training on farm biosecurity, field and laboratory equipment and training in animal handling and collection of samples.