July 5, 2022
FMD in Bali, Indonesia, raises infection risk in Australia, veterinarian warns
The risk of foot and mouth disease reaching Australia within the next six months is now "extremely high", a leading analyst and veterinarian warned, with Indonesian authorities confirming FMD has now spread to Bali, Indonesia.
The highly infectious livestock disease was detected in 63 cows at three locations around the island on July 1, Indonesia's Ministry of Agriculture said. It comes as West Australians are expected to descend on the tourist hotspot this week as winter school holidays begin in WA.
FMD was detected among cattle in East Java in early May and has now spread to 22 Indonesian provinces including Bali.
The latest infections bring Indonesia's total to more than 230,000 confirmed cases. According to Beef Central, a lockdown has been imposed to stop the delivery of livestock outside Bali.
With increasing numbers of Australians visiting Bali as COVID-19 restrictions ease, Dr. Ross Ainsworth said the risk of transmission to Australia was heightened.
"In my opinion, the risk (of transmission of FMD from Indonesia to Australia) is extremely high over the next one to six months," Dr. Ainsworth wrote in the Southeast Asian Beef Market Report.
As well as the rapid spread of FMD throughout Indonesia, and the rebounding of the country's tourism sector as travel restrictions ease, he said there were two other factors which together created a "more immediate" threat of transmission to Australia.
These were the limited quantities of vaccine available to protect Indonesian livestock and the "large numbers" of pigs and more than 600,000 head of cattle spread across Bali.
"Infected animals excrete virus into the air and through all secretions, including saliva," Dr. Ainsworth said. "Pigs are multipliers of the virus as they excrete up to 3,000 times more virus into the environment than ruminants."
Some industry players, including Global AgriTrends livestock market analyst Simon Quilty, have called for Australians to be banned from visiting Indonesia while FMD continues to run rampant.
Dr. Ainsworth said there was no need for this but stricter protocols should be implemented.
"Until Bali is fully protected by vaccination of its cattle and pig populations, an increase in the attention paid to tourists returning to Australia, especially their footwear, seems to be warranted," he said. "Considering the magnitude of the impact of an outbreak of FMD in Australia and the dramatically increased risk presented by the current epidemic in Indonesia, it would be appropriate to upgrade the biosecurity measures to match this increasing risk.
"Travellers are already used to a multitude of annoying COVID interventions. Additional requirements, such as ensuring shoes are clean and walking through a wet sponge infused with disinfectant before boarding and after leaving the flight, would seem to be simple and sensible measures which might help to address the new level of risk."
Dr. Ainsworth said FMD risk would return to "more traditional levels" when Indonesia's susceptible animal populations were fully protected by a comprehensive vaccination programme.
Vaccination has begun in infected provinces according to DAWE, with Australia having so far committed $910,000 for vaccine procurement and communication campaigns in Indonesia.