Foot and mouth disease

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[Mouth lesion in a cow overseas with foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) – image DAFF]

Background

Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is a highly contagious disease which affects cloved-hoofed animals including cattle, buffalo, pigs, sheep, deer, camelids and goats. It spreads through close contact between animals and can be carried on animal products, equipment, people’s clothing or by the wind.

Australia is free of foot-and-mouth disease and there has not been an incursion. However, the disease is present nearby in Indonesia.  FMD has been detected in 27 of 38 provinces in Indonesia, including Bali. 

For more information about foot-and-mouth disease go to: gov.au/famd

FMD is a national notifiable disease which means an animal showing suspect signs of the disease must be reported to the Emergency Animal Disease Hotline on 1800 675 888. This number will connect you with your state or territory’s department of primary industries or agriculture. 

Useful Resources

Foot-and-mouth disease information for veterinarians developed by Biosecurity QLD - including  downloadable FMD resources for veterinarians and veterinary paraprofessionals

Foot-and-mouth disease online training for veterinarians and veterinary paraprofessionals  - developed by Biosecurtiy QLD. If you are a veterinarian or veterinary paraprofessional, this training package will help further your understanding of FMD and notification requirements.

Updated May 2023

Current Situation
  • Media reports indicate that Indonesia has revoked its emergency status conditions for FMD, following a Ministerial-level meeting held on 3 April 2023. 
    • Although reports are that Indonesia is planning to declare FMD endemic, this does not mean that it will stop controlling the disease.  A recent Decree from the Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture indicates that control of FMD and lumpy skin disease (LSD) will remain a priority and surveillance, biosecurity, vaccination, and movement controls will continue to be implemented. 
  • Australia has provided ongoing support for Indonesia’s response to these diseases, and we will continue to engage with them to assist with their control efforts. This assistance includes supplying vaccines providing technical expertise, and capacity building support. The largest number of vaccinations have occurred in the provinces of East Java, Central Java, Bali and West Nusa Tenggara. 
  • The World Organisation for Animal Health (WAHIS) issues updates on the status of FMD in Indonesia, as reported by Indonesia on the Indonesian government’s website.
  • The emergence and rapid spread of FMD in Indonesia has changed its risk profile and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) has heightened border activities accordingly.
  • Australia is providing support to Indonesia to combat the outbreak. Assistance includes advice from Australian technical experts, supply of vaccines and offers of financial support. This is in addition to assistance already being provided to combat lumpy skin disease, that was recently detected in Sumatra.
Government measures
  • Following official confirmation from Indonesian authorities that FMD had spread to Bali, new measures were immediately imposed to protect Australia from an FMD incursion. This is due to the high number of people who travel between Bali and Australia.
  • The Australian Government has provided 4 million doses of FMD vaccine to Indonesia, at a cost of approximately $5.9 million.
Feral animals
  • Australia has a number of feral animal species that are susceptible to FMD. These include cattle, water buffalo, sheep, deer, pigs, goats and camels.
  • It isn’t possible to eradicate feral animals across Australia. However the AUSVETPLAN Wild Animal Response Strategy outlines procedures to manage wild animals in the event of an animal disease outbreak such as FMD. Although some feral animal populations have a wide geographical distribution, most exist at lower densities than domestic livestock. Population density is one factor that influences spread of FMD in a population.
  • A 2013 report commissioned by Wildlife Health Australia, Australia’s coordinating body for wildlife health, concluded that feral animals are unlikely to play a significant role in maintaining and spreading FMD in Australia. The only exception is the water buffalo, due to the potential for individuals to become long-term carriers of the disease. 

  • An Australian disease modelling study, published in 2015, suggests that if FMD is controlled in domestic livestock, it is likely to die out in feral pig populations without specific disease control measures being applied to feral pigs.

  • This is likely to apply to most other feral animal hosts and has been the case for successful control of outbreaks in other FMD-free countries.

  • The Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy (NAQS) program carries out surveillance for animal diseases in livestock and feral animals across the north of Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland and works closely with landholders, industry and communities to increase awareness of these risks.
  • Livestock producers should put measures in place, where possible, to prevent feral animals coming into contact with their stock. This could include making sure boundary fences are in good order and developing a wild and feral animal control program.
Livestock owners
  • All travellers have now been advised to avoid interacting with livestock and going to farms in Indonesia. If you have had contact with livestock or visited farms, avoid contact with Australian livestock or farms for 7 days after your return.
  • As part of on-farm biosecurity practices,  make sure visitors and short-term workers come clean and go clean. Pests and diseases can spread easily on equipment, vehicles, clothing and footwear used between farms.
  • Livestock producers must be alert for signs of disease in their animals. If animals are showing signs of illness that are consistent with FMD, this must be reported as a matter of urgency to the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888 or to their local veterinarian.
  • Feeding meat, animal products and imported dairy goods to pigs is illegal throughout Australia. This practice is known as feeding prohibited pig feed (swill) and can provide a high-risk pathway for FMD to enter Australia.
  • All livestock owners should have stringent biosecurity measures in place on their property, and now is the time to get a Farm Biosecurity Plan in place. 
Northern Australia
  • Do not move live animals, meat and dairy products, untanned hides or skins, other animal products or soil between the Torres Strait Protected Zone and the Torres Strait Permanent Biosecurity Monitoring Zone or to mainland Australia without a permit and an inspectionby a Department of Agriculture,  Fisheries and Forestry biosecurity officer.
  • Keep a watch for planes or boats in your region that may be carrying animals or animal products onboard. Also keep watch for food and garbage washed up on the beach that could potentially be contaminated with the virus. If you see any of these threats, contact a local ranger or your nearest Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy office.
Vaccination in Australia
  • Currently Australia is recognised as ‘free from FMD, without vaccination’. This allows Australia’s international trade to continue. If vaccination were implemented, Australia would lose this status, which would affect trade.
  • The decision of whether to vaccinate and how to apply vaccination is complex and will depend on many factors including:
    • the nature of the outbreak
    • epidemiological considerations
    • logistical and resourcing issues
    • animal welfare considerations
    • industry and public attitudes
    • socio-economic considerations
    • trade implications
    • international standards
    • international experiences with the use of vaccination in previously free countries.
  • The Consultative Committee on Emergency Animal Diseases (CCEAD) will consider the use of vaccination from day one of an FMD response.
  • Australia has an overseas FMD vaccine bank and vaccine will be available for use if there is an incursion in Australia.
Impacts
  • FMD is considered one of Australia’s greatest biosecurity threats.
  • An incursion would have severe consequences for Australia’s animal health and trade.
  • An uncontrolled outbreak could lead to immediate closure of our meat export markets for more than a year. In 2022, ABARES estimated that a large FMD incursion across multiple states would have a direct economic impact of around $80 billion.
Preparedness
  • Australian, state and territory governments are working closely with our livestock industries to stay-up-to date on the situation in Indonesia, and to highlight the need for vigilance and prevention activities.
  • Australia has detailed, well-rehearsed FMD response plans and arrangements in place. Governments and industry’s preparedness is continuously reviewed.
  • The AUSVETPLAN response strategy for FMD is part of our national response arrangements. The plan sets out the nationally agreed approach that would be taken to respond to FMD if it occurred in Australia. The plan includes an assessment of the role of vaccination in responding to an incursion.
  • Australia's Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement (EADRA) documents nationally agreed arrangements for the cost sharing of compensation paid to affected livestock enterprises.
  • Compensation payments are managed under jurisdictional legislation and processes which vary to some extent between individual states and territories and the Australian Government.
  • Find out more on EADRA on the Animal Health Australia website.

History of the disease

  • FMD outbreaks are common in Asia, the Middle East, South America and parts of Africa.
  • Outbreaks of FMD in the United Kingdom in 2001 and 2007 resulted in millions of animals being destroyed and billions of dollars of revenue lost. The impacts of these outbreaks were felt way beyond livestock owners. There were significant impacts on on tourism, small businesses, and schools. Mental health impacts were also a significant aftermath. 
  • Taiwan reported several outbreaks beginning in February 2009. 
  • In 2010, both Japan and the Republic of Korea experienced large FMD outbreaks which required extensive programs to control the disease. The 2010–11 Korean outbreak is estimated to have cost the government some 3 trillion won, equivalent to about $US 2.7 billion.