What would an exotic disease outbreak look like on your farm?

Prevention: Keeping track of movement off and on farm is critical in controlling an exotic disease outbreak. Photo by Rodney Woods

You could hardly imagine a more stressful scenario for a livestock producer than an exotic disease being diagnosed on their property — have you ever wondered what happens next?

Of course, there are numerous possible scenarios and the approach taken would vary according to the specific disease.

A series of documents known as AUSVETPLAN are in place to guide the process to help ensure a consistent, effective response and successful outcome.

In general, initially the producer’s property may be quarantined to help limit the disease spreading to other properties.

Further investigative samples may be collected to confirm the diagnosis and to help determine the extent of its spread on the property.

Epidemiological information, such as recent movements on and off the property, would be collected to help guide tracing and surveillance activities on other properties.

Accurate and up-to-date records of movements of livestock, visitors, contractors and machinery on and off property are essential to quickly identify any movements that need to be traced and the possible source of the infection.

You must also record when cattle, sheep, goats and pigs are moved between properties with different Property Identification Codes through completing a National Livestock Identification System database transfer.

When the disease is confirmed, an Incident Control Centre may be established by Agriculture Victoria at a suitable location, usually in a nearby town.

Infected premises operations would be put into place to eradicate the disease on the property and to ensure contaminated material doesn’t leave the property.

This would vary according to the nature of the disease. If destruction of livestock or other materials were necessary, compensation may be given through pre-existing cost sharing arrangements between government and industry.

Local movement controls may be put in place through the declaration of Restricted and Control areas.

Eventually, when eradication of the disease is achieved, proof of freedom testing would be necessary to demonstrate to our trading partners the disease has been successfully eradicated.

It sounds overwhelming, but these activities and processes are necessary to preserve Australia’s multi-billion-dollar livestock industries and to prevent the establishment of an exotic disease.

Naturally, prevention through strict border control, good on-farm biosecurity and compliance with preventive measures such as the swill feeding ban is far preferable to dealing with the ramifications of an exotic disease outbreak.

Agriculture Victoria encourages producers to report any unusual signs or suspected cases of emergency animal disease without delay to the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888.

Dr Jeff Cave

Senior veterinary officer

Agriculture Victoria