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Australia faces growing risk of foot-and-mouth disease as outbreak spreads in Indonesia

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The risk of foot-and-mouth disease reaching Australian shores has increased as an outbreak sweeps Indonesian cattle herds.

More than 20,000 animals have been infected with foot-and-mouth disease in 16 provinces, according to Indonesia’s Ministry of Agriculture. Some analysts are worried that the virus will soon reach tourist hotspots such as Bali, raising questions about whether Australian travelers should be banned from going there.

Canker sores are a highly contagious disease that affects cattle, sheep, goats and pigs. It is characterized by fever and blister-like sores on the tongue and lips, in the mouth, on the nipples and between the hooves. The virus has not been detected in Australia for more than 100 years, according to the government.

Australian Chief Veterinary Officer Mark Schipp says his department is looking at a previous risk assessment last year, which puts a 9% chance of a foray over the next five years and that the new figure would be “certainly higher” in light. growth. outbreak in Indonesia.

“The situation there is very serious,” said Schipp, who recently returned from the Southeast Asian nation, where the disease has spread to the western region. “They have no vaccine in the country and are largely unable to implement movement restrictions to stop the movement of animals, which allows the disease to continue to spread.”

Economic impact

The disease poses a serious threat to the $ 32 billion ($ 23 billion) livestock industry. A widespread outbreak would have an estimated direct economic impact of about A $ 80 billion, according to the Australian Bureau of Economics and Agricultural Sciences and Resources.

However, the nation is proud of some of the strongest biosecurity laws in the world, and as a result, the risks of that happening are “very well managed,” Schipp said.

Since the outbreak in Indonesia, the Australian government has sent support to Jakarta, including a vaccine funding offer, technical assistance to improve on-farm biosecurity and additional capacity to increase laboratory and diagnostic capabilities. Last month, Indonesia said it would start producing its own injections for its herds.

“Animal health and veterinary services are largely decentralized,” Schipp said. “You can have the vaccine available nationally, but how it gets to the animals at the provincial and district level can be quite difficult.”

With about 65 million sensitive animals in the country, foot-and-mouth disease is likely to persist for “a number of years” in Indonesia, he said.

- With the assistance of Eko Listiyorini.

Photo: Hereford red and white cows walking on the eucalyptus paddock in the background in Australia. Photo credit: Bigstock

Copyright 2022 Bloomberg.

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