FMD ‘extremely likely’ to reach Australia, expert warns

2022-06-30 11:30:00

The risk of foot and mouth disease spreading to Australia within the next six months is “extremely high” and the highly infectious livestock virus is likely to reach Bali “soon”, according to a leading analyst and veterinarian.

The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment said FMD was detected among cattle in East Java in early May and has since spread to 19 Indonesian provinces.

And with increasing numbers of Australians visiting Bali as COVID-19 restrictions ease, Southeast Asian Beef Market Report author Ross Ainsworth said the risk of transmission to Australia was heightened.

“In my opinion, the risk (of transmission of FMD from Indonesia to Australia) is extremely high over the next one to six months,” Dr Ainsworth said.

“The disease is spreading quickly through the Indonesian islands and will soon infect Bali.”

The department said more than 200,000 cases of FMD had been recorded in Indonesia.

Dr Ainsworth, who has 40 years experience in the Australian beef industry, said FMD was among the most contagious of all animal diseases.

As well as the rapid spread of FMD in Indonesia and the rebounding of the country’s tourism sector, he said there were two other factors which together created a “more immediate” threat of transmission to Australia.

These were the limited quantities of vaccine available to protect Indonesian livestock and the “large numbers” of pigs and more than 600,000 head of cattle spread across Bali.

“Infected animals excrete virus into the air and through all secretions, including saliva,” Dr Ainsworth said.

“Pigs are multipliers of the virus as they excrete up to 3000 times more virus into the environment than ruminants (such as cattle).”

A cow with foot and mouth disease in Nepal. Excessive drooling is a common symptom.
Camera IconA cow with foot and mouth disease in Nepal. Excessive drooling is a common symptom. Credit: Supplied/RegionalHUB

Australia has a large feral pig population, which some experts including national feral pig management co-ordinator Heather Channon believe could potentially exacerbate an outbreak.

That’s despite research indicating feral pigs are unlikely to play a major role in the spread of FMD in Australia due to factors including climatic conditions, the capacity of the virus to survive outside the host for long periods, and the density and size of feral pig populations.

Some industry players, including Global AgriTrends livestock market analyst Simon Quilty, have called for Australians to be banned from visiting Indonesia while FMD continues to run rampant.

Dr Ainsworth said there was no need for this but stricter protocols should be implemented.

“Until Bali is fully protected by vaccination of its cattle and pig populations, an increase in the attention paid to tourists returning to Australia, especially their footwear, seems to be warranted,” he said.

“Considering the magnitude of the impact of an outbreak of FMD in Australia and the dramatically increased risk presented by the current epidemic in Indonesia, it would be appropriate to upgrade the biosecurity measures to match this increasing risk.

“Travellers are already used to a multitude of annoying COVID interventions.

“Additional requirements such as ensuring shoes are clean and walking through a wet sponge infused with disinfectant before boarding and after leaving the flight would seem to be simple and sensible measures which might help to address the new level of risk.”

Dr Ainsworth said Bali cattle were “stunningly beautiful” and docile animals which tourists commonly approached for close-up photographs.

He said the risk would return to “more traditional levels” when Indonesia’s susceptible animal populations were fully protected by a comprehensive vaccination program.

A UK government official cleans up to ensure no foot and mouth virus is passed on during a 2001 outbreak.
Camera IconA UK government official cleans up to ensure no foot and mouth virus is passed on during a 2001 outbreak. Credit: Cate Gillon/Getty Images

Vaccination has begun in infected provinces according to DAWE, with Australia having so far committed $910,000 for vaccine procurement and communication campaigns in Indonesia.

Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt will visit Indonesia in July as Australia helps to contain the spread of FMD and lumpy skin disease.

Australia’s last recorded case of FMD was in 1872, with recent modelling by the Federal Government’s commodity forecaster ABARES estimating an outbreak would cause revenue losses of $80 billion over 10 years.

Dr Ainsworth said Australia had remained free of FMD for the past 150 years through a combination of effective biosecurity arrangements, strict animal quarantine and “good luck”.

“Indonesia has been free of FMD since 1986, providing a significant barrier to the disease which has been endemic in mainland Asia for centuries,” he said.

“Outbreaks in Asia are relatively common, certainly in the order of several per year, but the disease tends not to be a major problem for these countries as they are largely protected by highly effective vaccination programs.

“None of these countries export meat, so their industries are generally not significantly impacted.

“Outbreaks usually result from the movement of animals out of unvaccinated areas, such as Myanmar, into areas of neighbouring countries where for various reasons vaccine use has lapsed.”

FMD affects cloven-hoofed species including sheep, goats, buffalo, camels and deer. It can be spread from animal to animal and by contaminated vehicles and equipment.

Symptoms include fever, depression, reduced appetite, increased salivation and lameness.

Livestock exhibiting symptoms should be reported to the national Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888.

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Source by [earlynews24.com]