Australia’s chief veterinarian travels to Indonesia as emergency vaccination begins against lumpy skin disease

Australia’s chief veterinarian is on his way to Indonesia as the country struggles with an outbreak of lumpy skin disease.

The viral disease is carried by biting insects such as mosquitoes and causes skin lesions, fever, loss of appetite, decreased milk production and can lead to death in cattle and buffaloes.

“I will be meeting with officials to discuss our cooperation with Indonesia on the outbreak of lumpy skin disease in Riau province,” said Chief Veterinary Officer Mark Schipp.

Dr. Schipp said it was important to protect Australia from the disease.

“An outbreak here would have serious trade consequences across the trade in live animals, for exporters of dairy products, genetic materials, hides and some meat products in addition to animal welfare problems and significant production losses,” he said.

Biggest threat in decades, says the vet

Indonesian veterinarian Ross Ainsworth said it would be “catastrophic” if the disease reached northern Australia.


He said the outbreak in Indonesia was the “most serious threat to the Australian cattle herd” he had witnessed in decades.

“This is transmitted by biting insects, so the biosecurity measures that have been effective for many other diseases for generations are just not able to protect us from this,” he told ABC Rural.

“We’ve got other viruses down [to northern Australia] via insects on the monsoon, such as bluetongue virus.

“There’s just not much you can do … and the fact that cattle in northern Australia are not able to be cared for individually I think would set our mortality rate [for lumpy skin disease]especially in calves, much higher than anywhere else in the world – and that’s what scares me. “

An elderly man hugs a calf in a shed.
Ross Ainsworth has been involved in the NT cattle industry for decades.(Delivered to: Central Station / Ross Ainsworth)

Dr. Ainsworth said Australia’s cattle industry needed to quickly understand what was at stake and how trade in live exports would be at “immediate risk” if the disease spread to Australia.

Foot-and-mouth disease (MKD) has always been the most frightening disease we have been concerned about [getting] in Australia – and rightly so, “he said.

“But FMD has the potential to be eradicated because the vaccines are quite good and the transmission can be stopped using biosafety measures.

“But with insect-borne viruses, there is nothing you can do.

A cow with lumps and lesions on the skin.
An Indonesian cow with lumpy skin disease.(Delivered: FAO / Eko Prianto)

Federal funding to fight disease

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud was in Darwin today and announced a $ 61.6 million to increase biosafety efforts in northern Australia, including $ 15 million to efforts to stop the disease from entering Australia.

“Lumpy skin disease, recently confirmed in Indonesia, is a key priority,” he said.

“We are committed to protecting our $ 15 billion cattle industry.

“Because if we got lumpy skin disease in this country, you’d lose yours [live] export markets from one day to the next, and that would ruin the northern territory. “

A man vaccinating a cow in a shed.
The Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture is vaccinating cattle against lumpy skin disease in Sumatra.(Delivered: FAO / Eko Prianto)

Deployment of vaccination in Indonesia

Indonesia has made great efforts to limit the outbreak.

A vaccination program supported by the Australia-Indonesia Health Security Partnership and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UN FAO) is underway.

330 cases of lumpy skin disease have been confirmed in Riau province, according to the FAO.

“If we look at the cattle population at risk, it means that about 15 percent of the cattle in the area were affected,” said FAO’s Luuk Schoonman.

“Usually with lumpy skin disease that can be up to 40 percent, so the percentage of affected cattle has been low.

“The vaccination program is underway in eight districts of Riau Province.

Restrictions have been placed on the movement of cattle out of the province and the Indonesian government has launched an information campaign.

“There is a major containment effort going on and we hope we are able to limit lumpy skin disease to Riau province,” said Dr. Schoonman.

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