The presence of Foot and Mouth Disease in cattle in Bali has become a major headache and serious concern for authorities in Australia. Border control and immigration have launched a series of new biosecurity measures and farmers across the country are urging travelers to take the new precautions seriously.
Bali has been given Red Zone status and has banned the movement of livestock for the foreseeable future. Authorities in Bali are working around the clock to curb the outbreak, while authorities in Australia are concerned that the situation is a ‘timebomb’ for the agricultural sector. If foot and mouth disease reached Australia it could cause damages of over AUD 100 billion.
What’s more, a second virus has been detected in cattle in Bali. This second virus, known as lumpy skin disease is harder to keep out of a country. These two viruses together have the potential to create a perfect storm of disasters for the Australian farming sector and travelers have a serious responsibility to help prevent the spread.
Lumpy Skin Disease is carried by mosquitoes and only affects cattle bitten by carrier mosquitoes. The mosquitoes are at risk of being bought into Australia carried in the wind, or even trapped in exported goods and luggage.
The risk of lumpy skin disease hitting Australia is said to be higher than foot and mouth disease. Officials say the impacts would be less significant but still ‘hugely problematic’ causing damage to the export markets.
Speaking to Australia’s 9News, Matt Dalgleish, who is a farming analyst with Thomas Elder Markets, said that travelers from Bali to Australia is ‘unwittingly’ posing a serious biosecurity threat. He said that the ‘biggest fear with Bali and foot and mouth is just the sheer number of tourists”.
Australians consistently top the charts as the highest number of visitors to Bali, closely followed by Singapore and the UK. Travelers to the UK from Bali are also at risk of spreading foot and mouth disease. The last major outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in the UK was in 2001. The outbreak cost the country AUD 13 billion and resulted in the culling of over 6 million cattle.
The last case of Foot and Mouth Disease in Australia was in the 1870s and while the Australian authorities have pledged all the support they can to help Indonesia curb its outbreak, the situation has been referred to as a ‘time bomb’ heading to Australian pastures.
Currently, there are over 230,000 confirmed cases of Foot and Mouth Disease in Indonesia and over 63 in Bali. Figures may be higher since the turnaround on testing is said to be around 2 weeks, with the first cases confirmed in Bali within the last 10-days.
Over 128,000 Australians travelers to Bali in June 2022, with the same, again predicted to travel throughout July and August. Dalgleish explained how travelers create a bio-bridge for the virus to potentially hop from cattle in Bali to cattle in Australia.
He said there are ‘a lot of contact points for Australian tourists bringing it [the virus] back in on their clothing or their footwear…It [the virus] can carry quite easily with a bit of mud on your boots….So that’s a concern, it’s highly infectious’.
Dalgleish’s sentiments were echoed by Agriculture Minister Murray Watt who said “It is crucial that every traveler returning to Australia from areas affected by FMD follows the biosecurity instructions we have in place at the border”. The new Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese recently visited Indonesia to meet with President Joko Widodo.
During talks the pair talked about new trade and visa agreements, Prime Minister Albanese also committed to supporting the Indonesian Agriculture Department with technical guidance and vaccines to help curb the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease, which at that point had only been detected in Java and Sumatra.
Travelers in Bali are being advised to leave their flip-flops in Bali since these permeable materials are hard to disinfect. Travelers returning to Australia from Indonesia can expect to have to undergo extra biosecurity measures.
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