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Blood from Infected Pigs Turned a South Korean Stream Red

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A stream in South Korea turned red from the blood of thousands of slaughtered pigs. 

Luckily, officials were able to halt the crimson flow before it could contaminate local drinking water, according to news reports.

The pigs were slaughtered because they were potentially infected with African swine fever, a highly contagious illness that can be deadly for pigs but that does not infect humans, according to The New York Times.

The incident happened earlier this week in the South Korean county of Yeoncheon, which borders North Korea. After authorities in the area culled a group of nearly 50,000 pigs, the carcasses were waiting on trucks to be buried in plastic containers, the Times reported. But then, rain hit the region, and blood poured into a local stream.

Residents became concerned that the stream would contaminate the Imjin River, which provides drinking water to towns north of Seoul, according to the Times. But officials used dikes and pumps to successfully stop the bloody water from flowing downstream. Today (Nov. 13), officials confirmed that the Imjin River was not contaminated by the blood, the Times said.

African swine fever is a viral illness that affects domesticated and wild pigs and is found in countries around the world. Recently, it has spread to China, Mongolia and Vietnam, as well as parts of Europe, according to the U.S Department of Agriculture. In pigs, the disease spreads rapidly and has a high death rate. So far, the disease has not been found in the United States.

Even though African swine fever itself is not a risk to people, pig's blood can still transmit other diseases to humans. For example, the consumption of raw pig products can increase the risk of trichinellosis, an infection with parasitic roundworms, as well as the risk of infection with Streptococcus suis, a bacteria that can cause meningitis, according to a 2014 report published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Originally published on Live Science.

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Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.