NEW light on how a Lumpy Skin Disease outbreak could affect Australian livestock populations is detailed in today’s Weekly Grill podcast interview with Australia’s chief veterinary officer Dr Mark Schipp.
Dr Schipp has just returned from visiting infected herds in South East Asia, and while the disease is most closely associated with cattle, he noted that the disease has also crossed over into sheep and goat populations in nearby countries.
“Sheep and goat pox is sometimes used in the vaccine, and as a consequence we’re starting to see some merging and recombination between the two viruses, so in some of the current outbreaks that are occurring in our region, sheep and goats are also becoming infected.”
The sheep and goat pox is a heterogenous vaccine, meaning that animals can be vaccinate with one disease to protect them against another, Dr Schipp said.
“And in many countries that works well because they don’t have sheep and goat industries, but for Australia they wouldn’t work because of the recombination of the virus over time and in new environments the virus itself is changing and becoming more adept over time.”
In a follow up statement today, in response to questions from Beef Central and Sheep Central about the potential risk to sheep and goats in Australia, the Department of Agriculture said lumpy skin disease virus does not generally cause signs of disease in sheep or goats.
But it notes that some of the new Lumpy Skin Disease virus strains, which have been linked to potential disease in sheep and goats, have been shown to be more infectious in the laboratory.
“More studies are needed to determine what this will mean in the field,” the department said.
“The strain of lumpy skin disease in Indonesia is thought to be similar to the strain sequenced from Taiwan and there is no evidence that it causes disease in sheep or goats.
“Some export markets have generic certification requirements to keep countries free of lumpy skin disease,” the department said.
“The department is reviewing all products affected by this, which include lamb and mutton to some of Australia’s trading partners.”
In today’s interview, Dr Schipp explains there a number of ways LSD could arrive in Australia from Indonesia where it is now endemic, such as through biting insects being carried on winds across the sea.
While it was more likely to be a threat to northern Australia, herds in southern Australia were not necessarily immune to the virus, should an outbreak occur.
“We also have the challenges (in the north) of returning livestock vessels and the cyclonic events that that might bring in biting insects as well.
“So there are a number of avenues in the north which aren’t available in the south,” Dr Schipp explains.
“But we shouldn’t rule it out in the south.
“We do find exotic mosquitoes in aircraft that fly in from Malaysia for example, that is another avenue we need to be cognisant of.”
Is LSD now inevitable in Australia?
Asked if it was inevitable the disease will arrive in Australia, Dr Schipp said the pressure “will not go away and it will only build over time”.
“So if we don’t have it occur in the next five years it may be in the five years after that, so we need to do everything that we can year-on-year to strengthen our defences and our preparedness and vaccines are obviously a part of that.”
In a wide-ranging interview on Lumpy Skin Disease today Dr Schipp also discusses how LSD affects livestock, the type of animals most at risk should an outbreak occur, progress to develop a live vaccine, and how technology grown out of the fight against COVID-19 could help efforts to protect the livestock sector from LSD.