Call for biosecurity check in with farm workers returning from overseas holidays

DPIRD says all livestock owners should have a high level of biosecurity in place on their property, including accurate records of livestock movement. Picture: Anita McInnes

WITH foot and mouth disease on Australia’s borders livestock owners and producers in the Wanneroo and Gingin areas need to be on guard as do farm workers returning from holidays who may have been in contact with susceptible animals while travelling.

An outbreak of FMD, which affects cloven hooved wild and domestic animals, including cattle, buffalo, sheep, pigs, goats, camels and deer, was confirmed in Indonesia in May this year.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) chief veterinary officer Michelle Rodan recommended along with prioritising good on-farm and supply chain biosecurity practices an extra biosecurity measure to check in with workers returning from holidays who may have been in contact with farm animals while travelling.

Dr Rodan said this was particularly important for workers who would be having direct contact with livestock such as farm and saleyard workers, livestock agents and transporters.

“If there has been contact, consider requesting the worker isolate from livestock for seven days and ensure appropriate border declarations have been made to ensure all footwear, clothing and equipment is free of mud, animal manure and mucus to minimise the risk of introducing a disease,’’ she said.

So far Australia is free of of the disease but the federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) says an outbreak of FMD could devastate the nation’s livestock industries, affect the economy and threaten jobs.

It could also require the slaughter of many animals in order to control the disease.

The FMD virus is carried by live animals and in meat and dairy products, as well as in soil, bones, untreated hides, vehicles and equipment used with these animals.

The virus can survive in frozen, chilled and freeze-dried foods.

It can also be carried on people’s clothing and footwear.

Foot and mouth disease lesions on the tongue of an infected animal. Picture: DAFF

Dr Rodan said other on-farm biosecurity measures producers could consider included keeping a register of all visitors on the property, farm gate signage, ensuring visiting vehicles did not have access to areas livestock were in, having footbaths available where practicable, keeping accurate records of livestock movements and isolating any new stock for a period of time.

Animal Health Australia says an uncontrolled outbreak could lead to immediate closure of Australia’s meat export markets for more than a year with control costs estimated at more than $80 billion dollars over 10 years while even an isolated, rapidly controlled outbreak could cost several billion dollars to eradicate.

Dr Rodan said early detection of FMD would be key to eradicating the disease and regaining market access as quickly as possible.

DAFF said the FMD virus was most likely to be introduced to Australia through contaminated, illegally imported animal products or through objects such as footwear contaminated with the virus, that came in contact with susceptible animals.

FMD is a nationally notifiable disease which means it must be reported to your veterinarian, your DPIRD field veterinary officer or contact the emergency animal disease watch hotline on 1800 675 888.