In a report submitted this week to the World Organization for Animal Health (commonly known by its French acronym “OIE”), the government of South Korea reports that the 77 outbreaks of foot and mouth disease (FMD) that started in that country in December 2014 are ongoing.

FMD image/ Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
FMD image/ Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

The report indicates that South Korea has thus far destroyed 65,951 head of swine and 4 head of cattle as a result of the outbreaks.

South Korea cannot identify the source of this latest FMD outbreak but has implemented measures such as control of wildlife reservoirs, movement control inside the country, vaccination, and stamping-out (destroying) livestock in an effort to arrest the ongoing spread of FMD.

In a 2008 risk assessment completed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the agency emphatically stated that South Korea has implemented all necessary disease prevention measures necessary for “maintaining the Republic of Korea (South Korea) as free of FMD.”

Within three months of APHIS’ optimistic prediction, South Korea had another outbreak of FMD, that one starting in January 2009.

In 2010 through 2011 South Korea had 155 outbreaks of FMD that resulted in the destruction of 331,135 swine, cattle and goats.

Using the same methodology employed in its inaccurate risk assessment for South Korea, APHIS subsequently completed risk assessments for FMD-affected Brazil and Argentina, claiming that they too have implemented all the necessary disease prevention measures for maintaining themselves free of FMD.

Based on these risk assessments, APHIS is now proposing to allow Brazil and Argentina to export fresh beef and pork to the United States, products that are known to transmit the FMD virus from one country to another.

R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard said the South Korea experience, with three major FMD outbreaks occurring within six years after APHIS said they would not, “demonstrates that APHIS is incapable of predicting when an FMD outbreak will reoccur in a country where the disease is known to exist.”

“For this reason APHIS should immediately abandon its proposed rules that would relax our FMD protections against Brazil and Argentina,” Bullard added.