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Nepal foot and mouth disease training a trip of a lifetime

North Coast Local Land Services District Veterinarian, Dr Liz Bolin, has recently participated in foot and mouth disease (FMD) training in Nepal. The exercise was jointly delivered by the European Commission for the Control of Foot and Mouth Disease (EuFMD), the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to improve Australia’s capacity to prevent FMD and manage any outbreaks. The training is supported by the Australian Government and is run each year to provide vital training for Australian veterinarians.

As part of the exercise, Dr Bolin received intensive training to recognise and sample animals for FMD and visited Nepalese farms to investigate potential cases of infection. In doing so, she witnessed and managed real cases of FMD for the first time.

Liz said of her trip, “Nobody could have prepared me for the experience of arriving in Nepal for the first time.

During the week delegates undertook epidemiological, clinical and pathological investigations of outbreaks of FMD on farms in the Kathmandu Valley.

In a Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) endemic country such as Nepal, the viral disease can cause severe economic losses. These can be direct, for instance due to a drop in milk production, reduced growth rates or death of livestock. Losses can also be indirect for example from the cost of treating clinically diseased animals.

Liz continued, “The main findings of our investigations were that animal movements and common grazing were major factors in the incidence of new outbreaks of FMD.

“We also found that having had previous cases of FMD on farms was a preventative for farms becoming infected in future outbreaks.

“Several factors were also identified to improve farm biosecurity on these properties, and these included; animal movement restrictions, minimisation of communal grazing, proper storage place for manure, more awareness of milk hygiene and better training of veterinary technicians.

“This training is such an important part of Australia’s Preparedness Program for Emergency Animal Diseases, as an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in Australia would have catastrophic consequences, in fact it is the biggest threat to Australia’s livestock industries.”

Foot and mouth disease is considered one of the world’s most serious diseases of livestock, and Australia is in a fortunate position to be free of the disease, having not had a case since 1872. A small outbreak, controlled in 3 months has been estimated to cost $7.1 billion, while a large 12 month outbreak would cost $16 billion. Any outbreak would close Australia’s valuable export markets. Australia’s strict quarantine laws help protect us from FMD and other exotic diseases.

“It is paramount that we remain vigilant for any possible incursions of the disease and training programs such as this provide an extremely valuable learning experience for Australian delegates as it ensures that there is a ready supply of well trained people, well equipped to deal with potential future outbreaks of Foot and Mouth Disease.” Liz said.

Previous Veterinarians have arrived back from the same training course and described it as the trip of a lifetime.

Liz concluded, “I feel so lucky to have experienced such an important course and to have had the opportunity to experience the training in Nepal.”

As a result of the practical experience gained, Dr Bolin is now part of an important network of people that act as Australia’s eyes and ears in preventing FMD in this country.

Clinical signs of foot and mouth disease in farm animals are varied, ranging from fever, depression, lameness and animals can develop sores on their tongue, mouth, udder and feet.

Local producers are reminded that if they suspect any emergency animals disease, or see any unusual signs of disease in their stock they should contact their nearest North Coast Local Land Services district veterinarian on 1300 795 299, local private veterinarian or the emergency animal disease hotline on 1800 675 888.

Media contact:            
Dr Liz Bolin, District Veterinarian, Phone 0412 303 907

Image caption:            
A dairy farmer in Nepal
Sharing chai with Nepalese farmers