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26 July, 2022

Concern over foot and mouth disease

Australian authorities are concerned for the potential outbreak of foot and mouth (FMD) disease among livestock after Indonesian authorities confirmed an outbreak.

FMD is a contagious viral disease of cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs with severe consequences for animal health and trade. At the time of writing Australia is free from FMD but there is concern Indonesia’s proximity to Australia, and popularity among Australian tourists, may result in the disease spreading.

In response to the FMD outbreak in Indonesia, frontline biosecurity officers are operating with increased vigilance across all flights arriving from Indonesia, including Bali. Indonesia had been free from FMD since 1986 but registered its first case in May 2022.

Though the risk to Australian cattle remains low, travellers are being urged to do their bit to prevent the spread. NSW deputy premier Paul Toole said the impact of an FMD outbreak in Australia would be disastrous for the livestock sector, the economy and regional communities.

“We have kept Australia FMD free for more than 130 years, but it is now on our doorstep and we all have a role to play to keep our industry safe.”

“The message to travellers is simple, if you’re heading to Bali or somewhere that may have been affected by FMD for a holiday, or know someone who is, please do the right thing when you return to Australia. That means declaring where you’ve been, making sure any clothes and shoes you bring in are clean and free from soil and manure, avoiding encounters with livestock on your travels and staying away from farms or anywhere there might be livestock for seven days when you get home.”

Travellers have been warned that one dirty pair of shoes could be all it takes to devastate the industry. While the Commonwealth has increased biosecurity measures on incoming flights, Mr Toole wants to see them taken further.

“We’ve put a number of ideas on the table, including increased luggage screening, the decontamination of equipment and shoes for all returning travellers from high-risk parts of Indonesia, more detector dogs at Sydney International Airport, and a targeted advertising campaign that urges travellers to avoid contact with NSW livestock and facilities for five-to-seven days upon their return.”

State agriculture minister Dugald Saunders said an incursion of the disease would have severe economic consequences.

“An uncontrolled outbreak could lead to the immediate closure of our meat export markets, and control costs have been estimated at more than $80 billion.”

Australia maintains an FMD vaccine bank internationally and vaccine is available for use if there is an incursion in Australia. Anyone keeping or working with cattle, sheep, goats, or pigs should be aware of the signs of FMD, blisters on the mouth and drooling or limping animals.

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