Bali: ‘Devastating’ disease threatens Australian livestock biosecurity

This highly contagious livestock disease has spread to Bali and the official advice for travelers returning to Australia is to throw away the straps.

Bali lovers have been warned: your dirty thongs could lead to the collapse of our animal husbandry.

After a “destructive” foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is found in Australia’s favorite tourist destination, all travelers returning from Indonesia will be subject to special biosecurity checks for the disease.

While foot-and-mouth disease is harmless to humans, the disease, which can be found in contaminated soil, is considered the biggest biosecurity risk to Australia’s livestock industry.

Causing painful blisters and lesions in animals such as cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and camels, the disease often prevents them from eating and can cause severe lameness and even death.

And because the disease is highly contagious, National Farmers Federation (NFF) President Fiona Simson said if it spread in Australia, the consequences would cost billions of dollars.

“The news that foot-and-mouth disease has reached Bali sent shivers through Australian farmers,” Ms Simson said.

“An invasion of FMD alone would cost Australia $80 billion, hurting the entire economy, not just the agricultural sector.”

And with Australia exporting almost two-thirds of what the agricultural industry produces, the disease threatens not only Australia’s export earnings, but the industry’s ability to meet local demand.

A potential threat is also emerging as Australia continues to grapple with the economic fallout from the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and local floods that have driven inflation and interest rates up, impacting the cost and availability of food such as meat and poultry.

“Our ability to produce food and fiber for Australians and the world would be severely affected, which is why biosecurity is important for everyone,” Ms Simson said.

There are currently no traces of FMD in Australia and the last recorded outbreak was 150 years ago.

However, as travelers head to Bali for the first time in three years, the federal government has announced additional biosecurity measures for all travelers returning to Australia from Indonesia, including Bali.

“Australia has strict biosecurity protocols in place to prevent the entry of high-risk materials such as contaminated equipment or clothing, animals and animal products by travelers who may have come into contact with sick animals,” the Department of Agriculture said in a statement.

Australia has strict biosecurity protocols in place to prevent high-risk materials such as contaminated equipment or clothing, animals and animal products from being brought in by travelers who may have come into contact with sick animals.

Anyone returning to Australia after visiting a farm or interacting with livestock abroad must declare this upon return so that steps can be taken to eliminate the risk of transmission through contaminated clothing or dirty shoes.”

Airports have already begun screening luggage for meat and cheese products and are warning tourists that their dirty shoes could be contaminated.

However, “foot baths” are expected to be introduced at airports soon, requiring travelers to enter containers filled with chemicals to wipe out any traces of the disease.

But since most travelers to Bali choose to wear a thong on their trip, Chief Veterinarian Mark Shipp advised travelers to ditch their thongs before returning to Australia.

The new biosecurity measure is a good sign for farmers across Australia, Ms Simson said.

“Ever since foot-and-mouth disease was discovered in Bali, our industry has been on edge given the growing volumes of traffic between our countries,” she said.

“We are pleased that Minister Watt is listening and taking this matter seriously and is acting appropriately to protect Australia’s coasts from this potentially devastating disease.

However, Ms Simson said the government should continue to review these settings as the situation evolves.

“Now we need the government to constantly check whether these measures go far enough and consider the feasibility of screening all arrivals from high-risk areas,” she added.

“It is our shared responsibility to industry, government and society to put up barriers and know what we can do as individuals to prevent intrusion.”

Originally published as ‘Destructive’ disease forces travelers to leave thongs in Bali