On Tuesday, 5 July, the NSW Government was officially notified by the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry that Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) had been detected in Bali.
That news has certainly raised huge concerns for the entire livestock industry, and this is the closest the devastating disease has ever been to Australia.
FMD is a highly contagious disease which affects cattle, buffalo, pigs, sheep, deer, camelids and goats, which are those animals with a cloven hoof.
It spreads through close contact between animals and can be carried on animal products, equipment, people’s clothing or by the wind.
There is no threat to human health from this disease. FMD is not the same as hand-foot-and-mouth disease which is a common disease in young children.It is critical that all livestock owners here in Australia know what FMD looks like, and that they check their animals regularly. If you suspect any signs of FMD it must be reported to the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline – 1800 675 888 or a local vet.
Australia has offered assistance to Indonesia to combat the outbreak. This is in addition to assistance already being provided to combat lumpy skin disease, which was recently detected in Sumatra.
FMD is considered one of Australia’s greatest biosecurity risks.
An incursion would have severe consequences for Australia’s animal health and trade. Severe economic losses would be felt with restrictions being placed on both domestic and international markets for live animals, meat and animal products.
An uncontrolled outbreak could lead to immediate closure of our meat export markets for more than a year.
Control costs have been estimated at more than $80 billion dollars over 10 years, and even an isolated, rapidly controlled outbreak could cost several billion dollars to eradicate.
We would see an immediate loss of over 1 million tonnes worth $15 billion in red meat exports to countries including: Japan, US, Korea and China.
The UK outbreak in 2001 cost $13 billion, with 6 million animals destroyed – our red meat industries are significantly larger than the UK.
The impacts of FMD would be felt well beyond agriculture.