A deadly and highly contagious disease could soon wreak havoc across Australia after being detected in Bali.
A leading vet has warned Australia’s livestock industry could be decimated by a rare disease unless authorities take a tougher approach to travelers arriving from Bali.
Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) has been detected in Bali, the Indonesian government confirmed over the weekend, heightening fears that unsuspecting tourists are spreading the virus to Australia.
Bali-based vet Dr Ross Ainsworth said it was the most dangerous time for foot-and-mouth disease in 50 years.
“We are in this dangerous window,” Dr Ainsworth told NewsCorp Australia on Thursday.
“The disease was confirmed in Bali on Saturday but confirmation is taking time,” Dr Ainsworth said.
“It’s probably spreading fast as we speak,” he said.
Foot-and-mouth disease has not been found in Australia for over a century, while Bali eradicated the disease in the 1980s.
The disease can be fatal to livestock and infects cattle, sheep, goats and pigs.
Dr Ainsworth said there are important reasons why the presence of the disease in Bali is such a threat to Australia.
He said the number of tourists arriving from Bali was high, while as a largely Hindu culture the popular island also had high numbers of pigs, which Dr Ainsworth said was spreading the disease at a rapid rate. higher.
He added that Bali’s high humidity also allows the disease to spread faster.
Dr Ainsworth said there was more interaction between people and livestock in Bali than most people would assume.
He said he lived in the tourist hotspot of Seminyak, and within 400 meters of his house there are two prominent groups of cows.
Another problem remains the vaccination of Bali’s livestock, which Dr Ainsworth says could take up to a year.
On Wednesday, Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt said the government had stepped up precautions, including having guard dogs at airports and information campaigns.
“There are also well-established plans in place in the event of foot-and-mouth disease detection in Australia, including a foot-and-mouth disease vaccine bank,” Mr Watt said.
But Dr Ainsworth said the minister’s measures are failing on the most critical count: foot washing.
He said he would like to see all returning passengers’ shoes washed once they disembark.
“The cost to the nation is around $100 billion,” Dr Ainsworth said.
“The fact that it’s rather inconvenient to sniff out tourists…isn’t a good enough excuse,” he said.