The feared foot and mouth disease (FMD) is spreading in Indonesia with thousands of cattle believed to be infected in the provinces of East Java and Aceh.
Our near neighbours had been FMD free since 1986, and now Indonesia’s Agriculture Ministry has issued an emergency FMD disease zone declaration and imposed lockdowns for the livestock sector.
FMD is a contagious viral disease of cattle, sheep, goats and pigs with severe consequences for animal health and trade. Goats smuggled from Malaysia are believed to be source of the Indonesian outbreak.
NSW Farmers President James Jackson said the FMD outbreak in Indonesia was far too close for comfort.
“This is a disease that will absolutely smash our economy if it reaches our shores,” Mr Jackson warned.
Modelling by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences in 2013 determined that a large outbreak of FMD in Australia would have a financial impact of around $50 billion over 10 years.
“We have been calling on both sides of politics to make an urgent commitment to action on biosecurity, but neither side seems prepared to do it properly.
“An FMD outbreak is a clear and present danger to Australia, but until we take it seriously, we will all be exposed to the risk.”NSW Farmers President James Jackson
The disease is a highly infectious RNA virus that is transmissible between animals such as sheep, cows, goats and pigs. FMD can spread through close contact between animals and be carried on animal products or short distances by the wind.
Mr Jackson, a trained veterinarian with expertise on the disease, said it had been found to travel via fog from France to the United Kingdom.
“The potential cost to the economy is directly related to how long we take to get on top of it, which is why we’ve been calling for urgent funding,” Mr Jackson said.
“We don’t have enough people trained to respond, and we don’t have enough people carrying out biosecurity enforcement at our borders.”
Mr Jackson said a sustainable funding model for border biosecurity must be pursued by state and federal governments to protect NSW and Australia’s agricultural industries.
Foot and mouth disease – low risk, but be alert
The Federal Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment says the risk to Australia remains low in the absence of close contact between animals or the importation of infected products.
The department has, however, advised livestock industries to be alert, raised awareness at the border – particularly in the north – provided advice to state and territory governments, and liaised with Indonesian counterparts. It has also advised chief veterinary officers in New Zealand, Timor Leste and Papua New Guinea.
It also warned anyone keeping or working with cattle, sheep, goats or pigs to be aware of the signs of FMD – blisters on the mouth and drooling or limping animals.
If livestock exhibit any unusual signs, people are urged to call their veterinarian or Australia’s Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888.
Anyone returning to Australia after visiting a farm or interacting with livestock abroad should declare this upon their return, so steps can be taken to remove the risk of transmission through contaminated clothing or dirty shoes.
In 2004, the federal government established an FMD vaccine bank in the UK to ensure Australia has access to vaccines should they ever be required to respond to an outbreak.
For more information on FMD, please visit https://www.awe.gov.au/footandmouthdisease
Indonesia is also grappling with outbreak of Lumpy Skin Disease.