Two viruses that are now in Bali could cost Australian farmers $100 billion.
Aussies on vacation in Bali could bring home a very contagious virus that would wipe out Australia’s multibillion-dollar livestock industry.
Foot and mouth disease (FMD), a deadly virus, came back to Indonesia in May after being gone for decades. It has now reached the popular tourist destination of Bali.
Matt Dalgleish, a farming analyst at Thomas Elder Markets, said that the hundreds of thousands of Australians who are going to visit Bali over the next few months are now a major bio-security threat that they don’t even know about.
“The number of tourists is the biggest worry about Bali and foot-and-mouth disease,” he told 9news.com.au.
Dalgleish said that tourists can easily bring the virus home on their shoes or clothes, so Australian airports need to be on high alert.
He said that if just one case was found anywhere in Australia, cows, sheep, pigs, and goats could not be moved anywhere in the country.
He also said that exports to the rest of the world would be stopped, and that any boats going to international markets would have to turn around.
Dalgleish said that the long-term damage to farmers and the economy could cost as much as $100 billion, based on what was known at the time.
“We lose access to our export markets right away until we can prove we’ve found the source of the problem, got it under control, and made sure it’s gone.”
Dalgleish said that it might take months or even years to do that.
In 2001, when the disease broke out, it cost the UK about $13 billion and caused more than 6 million cattle to be killed.
Australia hasn’t had a case since the 1870s, but with more than 230,000 confirmed cases in Indonesia and now 63 in Bali, the chance of that long streak coming to an end has never been higher.
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry said that all Australian airports will be more careful about flights from Bali and Indonesia.
In June, more than 128,000 people with Australian passports went to Bali, the Australian Border Force told 9news.com.au.
Dalgleish said, “That’s a lot of ways for Australian tourists to bring it back into the country on their clothes or shoes.”
“Even with a little mud on your boots, it’s easy to carry.”
So that’s a worry, because it’s very contagious.”
Biosecurity dogs are being put to work at the airports in Darwin and Cairns to sniff out the disease, and mail and packages coming into the country will be looked at more closely.
Agriculture Minister Murray Watt said, “It is very important that every traveler coming back to Australia from an FMD-affected area follows the biosecurity rules we have set up at the border.”
During a recent trip to Indonesia, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese promised vaccines and technical help from Australia to help stop the outbreak.
LSD, or lumpy skin disease, is a new virus that has been found in Bali. It will be even harder to stop it from spreading to Australia than foot and mouth, said Dalgleish.
Mosquitoes and other insects that bite carry LSD, but it only hurts cattle.
Dalgleish said that big storms could blow infected insects from Bali to northern Queensland, parts of the Northern Territory, and Western Australia.
“You can’t stop an insect that comes in on the wind from getting in,” he said.
“I think the chances of getting lumpy skin are higher than getting foot and mouth disease.”
Dalgleish said that lumpy skin disease would not be as bad for the industry as FMD, but it would still be a huge problem, especially for export markets.