Professor Tim Mahony
(Photo: UQ)

July 21, 2022

Australia has developed a detailed response plan should foot and mouth disease (FMD) be detected here, according to Professor Tim Mahony from the Centre for Animal Science at The University of Queensland.

“Foot and mouth disease virus represents one of the highest threats to Australia’s livestock industries, particularly those involving cattle, pigs and sheep,” Prof Mahoney said.

“However, the threat FMD virus poses is not new, and Australia has over many years developed a detailed response plan should the virus be detected here.

“Underpinning, the success of this plan is to detect the virus as soon as possible if an incursion occurs.

“The first step, after detection of an infected animal, will likely be a ban on the movement of animals, animal lockdown. The extent of the ban will depend on the suspected extent of the outbreak.

“However, as this virus is so easily spread and the potential impacts of it are so high, it is likely that the boundaries of the movement ban will be very conservative.

“It is far easier to modify these once the extent of the outbreak is known, than to continually extend them to try and contain the virus.

“The movement of people and equipment in and out of the containment area may also likely be restricted/monitored.

“In a way, the COVID pandemic has prepared Australia for FMD virus.

“People are more aware of viruses, diagnostic assays, epidemiology, etc and similar concepts will apply to controlling FMD virus.

“As with the pandemic, all Australians have a role to play in minimising this threat.

“Susceptible animals are not imported into Australia. The most likely scenario of FMD virus getting into the country is someone bringing it in. This is why we have such strong biosecurity at our international borders.”

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Member for Nanango Deb Frecklington

Member for Nanango Deb Frecklington says the threat of foot and mouth disease (FMD) cannot be underestimated.

“It is a massive concern, and I don’t think our economy has faced a bigger threat,” she said on Thursday.

“I support the call to heighten biosecurity at our national borders and for people returning from Indonesia to be vigilant and respectful of the biosecurity threat they pose.

“Agriculture and the livestock industry is the backbone of the entire Nanango Electorate, and this is an issue which affects my community as a whole.

“I am also very concerned about the mental health impacts on our primary producers.

“They have faced years of drought, floods, COVID restrictions and to now be faced with a threat like FMD, there is no doubt that this will be taking a further toll.

“I have asked for a briefing from the State Agriculture Minister about what plans are in place to help protect Queensland producers.”

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The State Government has established an Emergency Animal Disease Preparedness Taskforce to address the risks of FMD and Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD).

Queensland Chief Vet Dr Allison Crook said the Department of Agriculture, other government departments and industry stakeholders were working together to monitor the situation and boost preparedness arrangements.

The Taskforce consists of key industry, supply chain and government agency stakeholders.

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Biosecurity Queensland is encouraging livestock owners – including people with cattle, buffalo, camels, sheep, goats, deer and pigs – to be prepared, vigilant and on the lookout for lumpy skin disease (LSD), foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and African swine fever (ASF).

LSD, FMD and ASF are NOT present in Australia but if introduced would have a significant impact on production, businesses and families.

Livestock owners are reminded that feeding pigs food that contains or has been in contact with meat, eggs and untreated cooking fats and oils (swill feeding) is illegal, as it can spread animal diseases.

This is a timely reminder after viral fragments of FMD and ASF were confirmed in a small number of products in Australia tested as part of routine surveillance and testing of meat and other animal products by the federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

What livestock owners can do to prepare:

  • Look for and know the signs of LSD (cattle and buffalo), FMD (cloven-hoofed animals) and ASF (pigs).
  • Report suspect cases to your veterinarian and the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800-675-888 immediately.

Protect your livestock and livelihood:

  • Have a biosecurity management plan in place.
  • Ensure your biosecurity entity registration details are up to date.

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Video by the Australian Academy of Science / CEBRA

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