Australia’s Growing Biosecurity Battle 

You will have heard in the news lately the rising concern about biosecurity, namely the issues of Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD) and Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). Both are significant exotic diseases and could have catastrophic to our Agricultural industry. LSD has never been detected in Australia, and FMD has not been detected in Australia for over 100 years.

So what are they?

LSD was detected in our neighbouring Indonesia in March of this year. This type of pox virus is primarily spread by insect vectors such as mosquitos, certain species of flies and possibly ticks. The disease only infects bovine species. LSD can also be spread in some cases, from animal to animal and via contaminated equipment.

What are the symptoms?

  • Fever
  • Depression
  • Watering eyes
  • Increased naval and salivary secretion
  • Swelling of limbs, brisket and genitals (may occur)
  • Characteristic skin nodules
    • Firm raised nodules developed on any part of the body, but predominantly on the head, neck, genitals and limbs.
    • In the centre of the nodules, scabs develop and leave large holes that are at risk of being infected.

It is important to know that some animals may be asymptomatic and not show signs that they are carrying the disease.

If an outbreak was to occur within Australia, there is currently no LSD vaccine approved for use in Australia. The eradication of LSD is difficult, and early detection is essential for successful control and eradication.

Why are we so worried about it?

  • Milk yield can be reduced
  • Abortion in pregnant animals could occur
  • Overall production could be affected

FMD is a highly contagious disease that affects all cloven-hoofed animals (animals with divided hooves). This includes cattle, sheep, goats, camelids, deer, and pigs.

If allowed to spread in Australia, the disease is predicted to cause an $80 billion hit to the economy over ten years.

Indonesia has been grappling with the spread of the disease, which was recently detected in Bali, a popular holiday travel destination for Australian travellers.

So, if FMD and LSD occur in loads of other places, then why are we so concerned about Bali?

This is a great question.. The reason is that this is an uncontrolled outbreak with active infection going on in an environment of animals that haven’t had the virus or been vaccinated for it. Being geographically so close to Indonesia is call for concern.

So how’s it spread?

  • FMD can be transmitted in air particles between animals housed closely together
  • Through contaminated feed and water
  • Animal transport vehicles
  • Equipment
  • Clothing and footwear

Not only should we be aware of the risks, but owners and the industry should be alert of the symptoms of FMD. Typical signs in animals are:

  • Blisters on the nose, tongue, lips, mouth, between the toes and around hooves
  • Fever
  • Extreme drooling
  • Loss of appetite and weight
  • Depression
  • Drop in milk production

What can we do as producers?

It is important to ensure that your biosecurity management plan is up-to-date, that you are adhering to all National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) traceability obligations, and that all documentation is correctly completed. This includes correctly transferring animals when they are moving onto or off your property, animals have required tags and identification, and LPA NVDs or eNVDs are completed accurately and correctly.

If you would like to know more about LSD and FMD, please check out the links below and find out what you can do to stop the spread.

Emergency Animal Disease Hub; FMD & LSD

Biosecurity and Trade

General Information

FMD Prevention and Preparedness

Livestock ownership, identification, and movement in WA

On-farm biosecurity

Annabelle Garratt & Shannah Kanny – Regional Agriculture Landcare Facilitators

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