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Australian fauna and foot and mouth disease



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PRESS RELEASE BY THE ACTING MINISTER FOR HEALTH. MR. R.tf. SWARTZ AND THE MINISTER FOR SCIENCE AND EDUCATION', SENATOR JAG. GORTON .

AUSTRALIAN FAUNA AND FOOT AND MOUTH DISEASE

Australian native fauna -would be most unlikely to spread foot

and mouth disease should the disease ever enter Australia, the Acting

Commonwealth Minister for Health, Mr. R eW, Swartz, and the Minister

for Education and Science, Senator J„G. Gorton, said today.

In a joint statement the Ministers announced the results of

experiments conducted for the Australian Government at the Research

Institute for Animal Virus Diseases at Pirbright, England. ·

They said the experiments had shown that although it was

possible to infect Australian fauna with the disease, under experimental

conditions, by using massive doses of the virus, the native fauna were

found to be very much less susceptible than cattle, sheep or pigs.

They would be most unlikely to participate in the spread of foot

and mouth disease in the field.

The Ministers said that the favourable results reported from

the experiments were particularly important to Australian plans to cope

with any accidental introduction of the disease, which was a major

problem of the livestock industries in many countries,

Australia has been free of foot and mouth disease since

suspected outbreaks were eradicated in 1872,

The possible role of Australian fauna in spreading the disease

if it ever entered the country had been obscure until these experiments

had been completed.

For the tests a selected consignment of fauna sent to Pirbright

included red kangaroo, tree kangaroo, Bennett's Wallaby, wombat, possum,

bandicoot, potoroo, marsupial mouse, echidna and a species of water rat.

It had been found that the largest of the Australian native

fauna, the red kangaroo, caught the disease when very closely confined

with diseased cattle but it failed to pass on the infection to

susceptible cattle,

The experiments had been organised in 1964 as a cooperative

research project between the Commonwealth Department of Health and the

Animal Health Division of C.S.I.R.O.

Mr. W.A. Snowdon, of the Virology Unit of the C.S.I.R.O.

Division of Animal Health, had carried out the two-year investigation.

The Ministers said that the Australian Government was. deeply

appreciative of the assistance given and the facilities provided at

Pirbright by the Research Institute for Animal Virus Diseases.

CANBERRA 8/5/67.