SEOUL - North Korea confirmed Thursday it has been hit by an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, saying thousands of animals had died.
The livestock disease broke out in the capital Pyongyang late last year and has spread to eight provinces since then, the state news agency said.
It said the capital and North Hwanghae and Kangwon provinces had been worst affected, with about 10,000 cows and pigs infected and thousands of them dying.
The report, quoted by the South's Yonhap news agency, said emergency quarantine orders have been issued across the country.
A Seoul official reported last month that the North had apparently suffered a foot-and-mouth outbreak but Thursday's report was the first confirmation of the highly contagious animal disease in the secretive communist state.
The North suffers persistent severe food shortages likely to be worsened by livestock disease.
A foot-and-mouth outbreak in the North in 2007 prompted Seoul to send experts, medicines and equipment but relations have worsened sharply since then.
The South's Unification Minister Hyun In-Taek said earlier Thursday he believed foot-and-mouth disease has broken out in the North.
Asked if Seoul would offer help, he said it would first monitor the seriousness of the outbreak.
South Korea has been battling its own worst outbreak of the disease and had culled more than three million livestock to try to curb it.
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