Mon, Jun 5, 2023 5:00 AM

Increased risk Foot and Mouth Disease


Eloise Martyn

“New Zealand has never had a case of foot-and-mouth before, and we want to keep it that way,” Says Mary Van Andel, Ministry of Primary Industries Chief Veterinary Officer. “We are continually readying for the unlikely event of a foot and mouth disease outbreak in New Zealand and there are robust biosecurity controls in place to prevent this, but the effects of an outbreak here would be significant on our people and economy.”

Foot and mouth disease is considered one of the most serious livestock diseases in the world. It is a virus that only infects cloven-hooved animals. An animal is cloven-hooved if its foot is divided in two. In New Zealand this includes cows, pigs, sheep, goats, deer, alpaca and llama. The disease doesn't affect other animals, such as rodents, cats, dogs, birds, or horses. Foot and mouth is an animal health disease, it has no significant health impacts on humans. Even though it has a similar name, it is completely different from the human condition, ‘hand, foot and mouth disease’.

In May 2022 the terrible disease was detected in Indonesia, and a month later it was confirmed to be in the popular holiday destination of Bali. With direct flights resuming directly from Bali to New Zealand there are fears the devastating disease could spread via travellers and tourists and end up in our country. In response to these direct flights Biosecurity New Zealand has ramped up border measures to prevent it sneaking in.

“We have worked with Air New Zealand to ensure travellers on direct flights are aware of the new measures and that they can reduce processing time by following declaration rules and wearing closed footwear.” States Mary

The new measures include additional risk assessment questions, baggage searches, footbaths and a ban on personal consignments containing meat products.

A passenger arriving directly from Indonesia is:

·       Using a dedicated baggage carousel and possessing lane.

· Facing additional questioning from officers.

· Being directed to disinfectant footbaths (passengers with closed footwear).

“Existing border measures for passengers arriving on indirect flights are working well and will continue.” Says Mary.

Ministry of Primary Industries has had a Task Force that has been working since June 2022 to update and enhance existing plans for the unlikely event of an outbreak in New Zealand. Lessons learned from responses to the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis, and COVID-19 have been incorporated into the readiness planning.  This important work sees New Zealand well prepared to manage the challenge foot and mouth disease would present. “If there is a new outbreak in the world, we closely monitor and adjust our settings if needed.” Mary adds.

“We have been talking with our primary sector partners and it’s a timely reminder for farmers to maintain strong biosecurity practices,” Mary explains “That includes not feeding untreated meat products to animals, especially pigs, keeping overseas visitors away from stock for a week after their last contact with animals or infected places overseas, using the national animal tracing system (NAIT) and having strong general biosecurity plans on farm.”

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