SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea has stepped up measures to prevent the spread of the highly contagious and deadly African swine fever, its main state newspaper said on Wednesday, breaking its silence on the outbreak which was first reported in late May.
In late May, North Korea reported an outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), South Korea's agriculture ministry said but the North has not made any official comment on its outbreak.
North Korea's Rodong Sinmun newspaper said on Wednesday nationwide preventive measures are being carried out to contain the virus, quoting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as saying "prevention is the key to production in livestock industry".
"Increasing livestock production goes hand in hand with raising farm animals safe from various diseases," said Kim according to the newspaper.
"Once highly contagious diseases like African swine fever are spread .... herds of farm animals could die."
Preventative measures include disinfecting farms and restricting sales of pork and processed meat, the newspaper said.
North Korea raises mainly chicken, ducks and rabbits. Its pig population was 2.6 million as of 2017, according to data from Statistics Korea.
In the wake of the North's outbreak, South Korea has stepped up disinfection measures near the shared border to keep the viral disease spreading to the South.
So far, no further cases have been reported in North Korea.
African swine fever (ASF) is fatal and highly contagious to pigs and wild boards, but it does not affect humans. Since the first outbreak of ASF in East Asia was reported in China in early August last year, the virus has spread across China including Vietnam.
(Reporting By Jane Chung; Editing by Michael Perry)