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FMD outbreak puts nation’s livestock sector on alert

Sheep Central, May 9, 2022

Foot and Mouth Disease lesions in a cow’s mouth. Image – WA DPIRD.

AUSTRALIA’S livestock industries have been put on alert after a confirmed Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak in Indonesia.

The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment said assistance has been offered to Indonesia to combat and contain the outbreak in Java and Sumatra.

And the department has reviewed import permits for animal products from Indonesia that may carry FMD and suspended those of concern.

The department said until this outbreak, Indonesia had been FMD-free since 1986, a status recognised internationally by the World Organisation for Animal Health in 1990.

FMD is a contagious viral disease of cattle, sheep, goats and pigs with severe consequences for animal health and trade. Australia has Australia is free from FMD.

In response to the outbreak in Indonesia, the department has 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.

The department said past preparations include establishment of an FMD vaccine bank in 2004 to ensure Australia has access to vaccines should they ever be required to respond to an outbreak.

The risk to Australia remains low in the absence of close contact between animals or the importation of infected products. FMD can spread through close contact between animals, and be carried on animal products or short distances by the wind, the department said.

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.

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.

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 significant financial impact, estimated at the time to be around $50 billion over 10 years.

For this reason, the department said it is making every effort to further strengthen national biosecurity and underline the importance of on-farm biosecurity.

For more information on FMD, please visit https://www.awe.gov.au/footandmouthdisease

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