Illegally imported animal products or soiled footwear the biggest FMD risks

Travellers from overseas have to declare if they have been in a rural area, or if they are carrying food or other risk goods, including contaminated footwear, in their luggage. File picture

TRAVELLERS and people who want to bring in or mail goods from overseas need to be aware the most likely way foot and mouth disease could be introduced to WA is via contaminated, illegally imported animal products or through objects such as footwear contaminated with the virus.

The federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) says foot and mouth disease (FMD) is a highly contagious viral disease of animals and is one of the most serious livestock diseases.

According to DAFF if FMD got into Australia it would lead to a loss in production of meat and milk, cessation of trade and could require the slaughter of many animals in order to control the disease.

By July FMD had spread to Bali – a popular holiday destination for Western Australians – after an outbreak was reported in cattle in Indonesia in May this year.

But the disease, which affects cloven hooved wild and domestic animals, including cattle, buffalo, sheep, pigs, goats, camels and deer, is also present in other parts of Asia, the Middle East, Africa and parts of South America.

People who want to bring or mail goods into Australia can check if the items are allowed into the country – for example jerky and biltong derived from pig meat brought in for personal use will no longer be permitted and is considered to pose a high biosecurity risk.

If you do bring meat or dairy products to Australia you must declare them for inspection.

DAFF says travellers need to ensure any shoes, clothing or equipment they are bringing into Australia are clean and free from soil and manure.

They also advise travellers to avoid farms and livestock for the first seven days after arriving in Australia.

Now when they arrive in Australia travellers on all flights from Indonesia have to walk over foot mats designed to treat footwear by lightly coating the soles with a thin layer of a diluted chemical disinfectant.

But DAFF advises travellers if they have been overseas and their shoes are dirty and/or they have visited a rural area, they should consider thoroughly cleaning their footwear or leave them behind.

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

DAFF says goods that present a risk include meat products (beef, lamb and pork), dairy products, shoes, as well as boots and clothing, camping equipment, including backpacks.

Another risk is mountain bikes and other sporting equipment that have been used in rural areas, markets and zoos or near susceptible animals and have soil or manure attached and any equipment used with livestock.

To reduce the risk travellers should clean their shoes, clothing and equipment thoroughly before travelling to Australia.

DAFF advises shaking or scraping shoes to remove loose contamination such as soil and manure followed by thoroughly washing soles, laces, velcro and external surfaces using soap or detergent, water and a brush.

The shoes then need to dry well and be double checked that all traces of contamination were removed.

If any contamination remained visible the procedure should be repeated.

Even after this travellers still need to declare on their incoming passenger card if they have visited a rural area or been in contact with, or near, farm animals.

“Your shoes may then be inspected by a biosecurity officer at the airport and further treatment may be required,’’ DAFF says.

“There are no penalties for truthfully declaring or disposing items before undergoing biosecurity screening.’’

FMD is not to be confused with hand, foot and mouth disease, which is common in children.

Penalties of up to $2664 apply for breaching Australia’s biosecurity laws and your visa may also be cancelled.