News of Foot and Mouth Disease being found present in cattle in Bali has become a source of serious concern for border authorities in Australia. Farmers around the country are urging travelers to take new bio-security measures seriously as the risks to the Australian agricultural sector are huge.
The news is hitting the headlines of major international and local newspapers and is being widely discussed in the agricultural sector’s media outlets too. Speaking to the Daily Telegraph Agriculture Minister Dugald Saunders said ‘There are 103 flights a week going to Bali…We are asking for increased luggage surveillance, for every person coming back from Bali to have their luggage checked (and) decontamination of shoes’.
Saunders explained in simple terms how foot and mouth disease could harm Australian cattle ‘[The risk is] someone who has been out for a bike ride and has picked up some mud or cow poo on their shoes and never even thought about it’.
Foot and Mouth Disease does not affect humans, but people can form a bio-bridge for the virus to be carried from one area to another. The virus survives in living tissue and aerosols. Anyone who has come in contact with secretions (poo, blood, saliva, or breath) of an infected animal can carry the virus from one place to another. As Saunders described it can be as simple as a piece of dirt on a shoe.
This is why the National Farmers Federation in Australia has launched a social media campaign called ‘Throw Your Thongs’ to remind travelers to not bring any potentially contaminated items back into Australia. The leading risk is flip-flops. Since the shoes, also known in Australia as thongs or pluggers are hard to disinfect and travelers are behind told to leave them behind in Bali.
The National Farmers Federation has partnered with Ringers Western to offer a 30% discount for anyone who ditches their shoes before returning to Australia. A social media user, Farmer.DJ commented on the post ‘Great message, please clean your clothes, declare everything accurately and clean your footwear or leave them behind’.
Foot and Mouth Disease is a viral disease that affects animals with cloven feet, such as cattle, pigs, deer, goats, and sheep. Symptoms in animals include a high fever that can last 2-6 days and leads to blisters in the mouth and the feet. These can develop, and rupture leading to serious infection and lameness. Any clone foot animal who has tested positive for Foot and Mouth Disease, or has come into contact with an animal that has tested positive generally has to be culled since the virus is hard to control.
Although many travelers to Bali tend to steer clear of farm yards where cattle are kept, there are many places where they may still come into contact with the virus. The rice fields where many travelers visit to enjoy the stunning landscapes are home to cattle farmers who move their cows through the fields regularly.
Many visitors to Bali go on quad biking tours through muddy farmlands. While others simply explore rural villages where cattle are walked from one field to another. Many beaches have cows and water buffalo walking around free-range too.
At present, there is no official statement to suggest that Australian travelers should change their plans for activities while in Bali. There are, however, increased efforts across the board to help reduce confusion and help travelers to protect farms and farmers at home.
Farmers across Australia are urging travelers to take the new bio-security threat seriously. Airports across Australia are increasing bio-security efforts including shoe baths, luggage checks, and increased screening questions at border control.
Efforts are being made by Bali authorities to curb the outbreak, including the banning of the movement of livestock. As testing results can take up to two weeks to come back, the cases could be increasing faster than first thought.
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