Australia faces growing foot-and-mouth disease risk as Indonesia outbreak spreads
The risk of foot-and-mouth disease reaching Australian shores has increased as an outbreak sweeps through cattle herds in Indonesia.
More than 20,000 animals have been infected with foot-and-mouth disease in 16 provinces, according to Indonesia’s agriculture ministry. Some analysts fear the virus could soon reach tourist hotspots like Bali, raising questions about whether Australian travelers should be banned to go.
Foot-and-mouth disease is a highly contagious disease that affects cattle, sheep, goats and pigs. He is characterized by fever and sores resembling blisters on the tongue and lips, in the mouth, on the teats and between the hooves. The virus has not been detected in Australia for more than 100 years, according to the government.
Australian chief veterinarian Mark Schipp said his department was reviewing a previous risk assessment carried out last year which put the chance of an incursion within the next five years at 9%, and that the new figure would “definitely be higher” in light of the growing epidemic in Indonesia.
“The situation there is very serious,” said Schipp, who recently returned from the Southeast Asian nation, where the disease has spread widely in the western region. “They have no vaccine in the country and they are largely unable to put movement restrictions in place to prevent animals from being moved allowing further spread of the disease.”
The disease poses a serious threat to the 32 billion Australian dollar ($23 billion) livestock industry Down Under. A generalized epidemic would have a direct economic impact estimated at approximately 80 billion Australian dollarsaccording to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Science.
Still, the country has some of the strictest biosecurity laws in the world, and therefore the risks of this happening are “very well managed,” Schipp said.
Since the start of the outbreak in Indonesia, the Australian government has sent support to Jakarta, including an offer of funding for a vaccine, technical assistance to improve on-farm biosecurity and additional capacity to build laboratory capacity and of diagnosis. Last month, Indonesia announced that it would start producing its own vaccines for its herds.
“Animal health and veterinary services are largely decentralized,” Schipp said. “You can have a vaccine available at the national level, but how it gets into animals at the provincial and district level can be quite challenging.”
With around 65 million susceptible animals in the country, foot-and-mouth disease is expected to persist for “a number of years” in Indonesia, he said.
–With the help of Eko Listiyorini.
Photograph: Red and white Hereford cows walking across a paddock with eucalyptus trees in the background in Australia. Photo credit: Bigstock
Copyright 2022 Bloomberg.
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