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Are we FMD ready?

Posted by: dbarnard

November 7, 2019

Building greater surveillance capacity and fostering collaboration among farmers and other animal health stakeholders is a key part of a multidisciplinary research project working to enhance Australia’s emergency animal disease (EAD) preparedness.

The Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) Ready project includes four sub-projects, one of which explores farmer-led partnerships to improve on-farm surveillance. This sub-project is led by a team of researchers from Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, Charles Sturt University (through the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation) and the Department of Agriculture. It has established five producer-led pilot groups located across five states in Australia.

These pilot groups are working to promote quick reporting of any suspected disease by the affected producers, which assists with early diagnosis and the launch of a fast and effective response if found to be an EAD, said Dr Yiheyis Maru, Senior Systems Research Scientist at CSIRO and leader of the sub-project.

“There are five pilot groups – one for each of the FMD susceptible livestock industries in Australia, which include beef, pork, sheep, dairy and goat. These pilot groups are focusing on areas of interest to them, such as improving awareness and recognition of disease in livestock through post-mortem and diagnostic sampling workshops, herd health training and improving feedback to producers from abattoirs,” said Dr Maru.

“This independence, and the overall format of the pilot groups, empowers participants and enables strong partnerships to form between farmers, veterinarians, and other stakeholders.”

Researchers are investigating which producers might be most vulnerable to an outbreak and how they might react if exposed, to help determine the most effective allocation of disease monitoring and response resources.

Associate Professor Marta Hernandez-Jover, leader of the Graham Centre team, said that Australia is fortunate to be free of many EADs such as African Swine Fever (ASF) and FMD, but that vigilance is crucial to maintain this status.

“The detection of fragments of the ASF and FMD viruses in confiscated meat samples at Australian airports earlier this year revealed that there is a risk that diseases can be accidentally introduced. Early detection and reporting of diseases is key to minimising the impact of these diseases on people’s livelihoods and the country’s economy,” said Professor Hernandez-Jover.

The FMD Ready Project also aims to ensure Australia has access to the correct FMD vaccines and diagnostic tests, improve outbreak modelling capability, and develop tools that would assist in determining how farm-to-farm spread might occur.

The Project is supported by Meat & Livestock Australia, through funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture as part of its Rural Research & Development for Profit program, and by producer levies from Australian FMD-susceptible livestock (cattle, sheep, goats and pigs) industries and Charles Sturt University, leveraging significant in-kind support from the research partners.

The research partners for this project are CSIRO, Charles Sturt University through the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, the Bureau of Meteorology and the Australian Department of Agriculture, supported by Animal Health Australia.

For more information about the Project visit http://research.csiro.au/fmd/.