Article by: Hari Yellina
The Australian government has given Indonesia financial assistance in obtaining a vaccine to combat a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak (FMD). While Indonesia has yet to notify the World Organisation for Animal Health of the epidemic, more than 2,000 cattle are believed to be affected in districts across North Sumatra and East Java. The extremely contagious disease, which has yet to be detected in Australia, is thought to have moved from Malaysia and is the first outbreak of FMD in Indonesia since 1986. The offer comes as government authorities and the livestock industry strive to keep Australia’s FMD-free status and worldwide export markets.
The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment stated it had been notified of the epidemic and was assisting Indonesia in combating and containing it in a statement made on Monday. “In response to the outbreak in Indonesia, the department has advised livestock industries to be alert,” according to the statement. “The department has made people aware at the border, particularly in the north, offered feedback to state and territory governments, and liaised with Indonesian counterparts.” “Previous preparations include the development of an FMD vaccination bank in 2004 to ensure that Australia has access to vaccines in the event that an outbreak occurs.” “In the absence of intimate animal contact or the importation of infected items, the danger to Australia remains low.”
Mark Schipp, Australia’s senior veterinary officer, said the country was offering both financial and technical assistance to find and purchase a suitable FMD vaccine. While the risk to Australia is modest, Dr Schipp believes that the spread of FMD to Indonesia has raised the likelihood of an incursion. “We assessed the risk was 9% during the next five years two years ago,” he said. “Given the proximity of Indonesia, the trade we have with Indonesia in transporting live cattle up there, and the risk of returning stockmen and travellers from Indonesia, I would expect that risk to have at least increased.”
The outbreak in Indonesia has alerted livestock producers and industry officials, with a multibillion-dollar financial impact likely if FMD is discovered in Australia. The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) estimated in 2013 that a big FMD outbreak in Australia would cost more than $50 billion, while the Cattle Council estimates that the figure might potentially exceed $100 billion. Markus Rathsmann, president of the Cattle Council of Australia, said the reports of FMD in Indonesia were a “wake-up call” for the industry and biosecurity authorities. He added, “It’s also a case of being alert, not panicked.”
“It’s important to note that FMD is widespread in Southeast Asia. “Australia has already assisted Indonesia in the eradication of FMD, and we are currently doing so with lumpy skin disease. I’m confident that the Australian government will once again support the Indonesian government in eliminating it.” The expansion of foot-and-mouth disease to Indonesia coincides with an outbreak of lumpy skin condition in the country. Following an outbreak of Japanese encephalitis in eastern Australia this year, the pig industry has faced a serious biosecurity concern. Kirsty Richards, the head vet of Queensland pork supplier Sunpork, said Australia’s expertise dealing with biosecurity issues will help it protect the industry against FMD. “We’ve not only had the preparedness piece going for some years, but we’re living it at the moment in terms of response,” she said. “It’s a concern, but I think we’re in a good position if something was to happen.”