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Australian vets return from England.



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HON WARREN TRUSS MP MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FORESTRY

AFFA01/88WT 11 April 2001

Australian vets return from England

Australia's vets would play a critical role in this country's response to any possible foot and mouth disease (FMD) incursion, and they need to be aware of the disease's clinical signs, the Federal Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Warren Truss, said today.

Mr Truss's comments follow a letter from the Chief Veterinary Officer, Gardner Murray, to vets around Australia alerting them to the clinical signs of the FMD strain affecting the United Kingdom (UK).

"Our vets would be in the front line in the disastrous event of a FMD outbreak in Australia," Mr Truss said.

"Their cooperation will be essential if we are to respond quickly and avoid the massive damage being experienced in the United Kingdom.

"The FMD outbreak in Europe serves as a powerful warning to all countries and reminds us of the need for livestock owners and vets to be aware of the disease's clinical signs.

"Early identification, and prompt reporting, are essential if we are to eradicate any incursion of FMD before it spreads.

"I therefore encourage vets to remind livestock owners that if they see any unusual clinical signs, abnormal behaviour, or unexplained illness in their stock, to contact a private or government vet, stock inspector or the emergency animal Disease Watch hotline — 1800 675 888.

"It's vital livestock owners remember to think the worst first and look, check, and ask a vet."

Dr Murray said the Pan-Asia strain of the type O FMD virus in the UK was exhibiting variable clinical signs that were not always easy to diagnose.

"Animals with FMD are feverish, depressed, off their feed and lame, and may show excessive salivation," he said. "They also lose weight and their milk production falls.

"Common, clinical signs include: vesicles, erosions and ulcers in the mouth, on the feet and on the udder. However, it is important to remember that not all of these signs may be present. In sheep, for example, FMD symptoms can be much milder than in other species.

"It often presents in sheep primarily as lameness, with the vesicles, often considered a classic symptom of FMD, not evident. Mouth lesions are not prominent in sheep and any vesicles tend to occur on the dental pad and on the back of the tongue.

"Careful examination of individual animals may be needed to detect FMD in sheep, and only healing erosions or

ulcers may be seen.

"The signs can also be variable with regards to cattle. There is also evidence from Asia that the disease in native breeds of cattle may not be as severe as in European breeds."

FMD is a highly contagious, viral disease that affects cattle, sheep, goats, deer, buffalo and other cloven-hoofed animals.

It spreads rapidly by contact with infected animals, animal products, or fomites on feed, equipment, vehicles or people, or, in some circumstances, can even be windborne.

Mr Truss said this particular strain has spread widely from where it was first detected in India in 1990. From there, it has spread as far west as Greece and Bulgaria, east to Malaysia and Thailand, north to Mongolia and Siberia, and north-east into Korea and Japan.

"Last September, it reached South Africa via infected meat scraps that were fed to pigs and has now hit the UK, most probably through illegally imported meat," Mr Truss said.

"The widespread nature of FMD shows just how vulnerable other parts of the world can be from the growing global trade in live animals, genetic material, animal products and goods which can be contaminated, such as animal feeds.

"Once the virus has been introduced, lack of emergency preparedness in many countries mitigates against early eradication and can lead to further spreading of the disease.

"Previous freedom from FMD is no guarantee that it will not occur and Australia needs to maintain its border quarantine and disease surveillance systems. And Australian farmers and veterinarians need to be aware of the increased risks in the region.

"Outbreaks last year in Japan and Korea show that early identification, followed by prompt and efficient implementation of control measures can contain FMD.

"Australia has long recognised the importance of emergency animal disease preparedness and has a comprehensive response plan in place — the Australian Veterinary Emergency Plan.

"The likely success of control measures against diseases like FMD is considerably enhanced when it is recognised early and the response measures are implemented promptly.

"It is therefore vital that all people working with livestock are aware of the risks and promptly report any suspicious cases.

"Our strict quarantine controls have successfully kept FMD out of this country since 1872. This is a proud record, but there is no such thing as zero risk."

Minister's office: Yvonne Best (02) 6277 7520 or 0418 415 772

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Last updated 11 April 2001

URL: http://www.affa.gov.au/ministers/truss/releases/00/0188wt.html Commonwealth of Australia 2000