Aussie travellers returning from Bali may need footbaths at airport

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Australians returning from Bali may need a footbath when they touch down, as concerns surrounding foot and mouth disease grow.

Biosecurity measures were already beefed up to prevent foot and mouth disease (FMD) from coming into Australia, however, some politicians are calling for more measures to be implemented.

It was confirmed earlier this month the disease had been identified in Bali, a popular tourist destination for Aussies.

NSW Deputy Premier Paul Toole and Agriculture Minister Dugald Saunders have written to Murray Watt, the Federal Agriculture Minister, The Daily Telegraph reported.

Last week on Facebook, Mr Toole outlined some ideas Australia could implement to "ramp up" the biosecurity effort.

He called for increased luggage screening, decontamination of equipment and shoes for all passengers coming from high-risk areas in Indonesia, detector dogs and a targeted awareness campaign.

Queues of people are seen at the Virgin and Jetstar departure terminal at Sydney Domestic Airport.
Australia has taken extra steps to prevent foot and mouth disease coming in from overseas. Source: AAP

"It’s the closest FMD has ever been to our shores," Mr Toole said.

"The impacts of an FMD outbreak in Australia would be devastating to our livestock sector and regional communities — and we must do everything in our power to prevent that happening."

One of the other ideas being floated around was footbaths for returning Australians, and having their packed shoes decontaminated when they arrive back in Australia.

Mr Saunders said the footbaths could prevent contamination, and states and the Australian government would need to come on board, the Daily Telegraph reported.

As for decontaminated shoes, Mr Saunders said a traveller could go out overseas and step on some mud or cow poo and not think about the risk.

Travellers walk through the Airport in Melbourne, Saturday, June 25, 2022.
One politician is calling for footbaths for returning travellers. Source: AAP

What is Australia doing to prevent foot and mouth disease

A list of measures have already been implemented to prevent FMD from wreaking havoc in Australia.

Last week, Mr Watt said in a statement there would be new, targeted operations at major Australian airports.

The new operations are to ensure a wider range of passengers are being checked to ensure they are not contaminated with FMD, or their belongings are not contaminated.

All passengers on flights from Indonesia are being assessed, with "high-risk passengers identified for intervention".

Biosecurity detector dogs have also been deployed in Darwin and Cairns Airports and staff are being provided with additional biosecurity training.

Australia acted swiftly after Indonesian authorities confirmed FMD had reached Bali on July 5.

The new measures, which were announced on July 6 and again on July 8, are in addition to the measures which were already in place when the outbreak in Indonesia first began.

Mr Watt said in a statement on July 8 he had spoken with farm, food and biosecurity leaders.

He was briefed by some of Australia's leading biosecurity experts on the matter, including from CSIRO's Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness, the Centre of Excellence for Biosecurity Risk Analysis and Australia's Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Mark Schipp.

What is foot and mouth disease?

FMD affects cattle, sheep, goats and pigs and is a highly contagious disease that could have severe and devastating consequences on Australia's animal health and trade.

"The virus has not been detected in Australia for more than 100 years," Dr Schipp said in a video.

"But we should be aware of the risks of FMD arriving on our shores. FMD can be transmitted in air particles between animals housed closely together."

Humans cannot be infected with FMD and it is a completely different virus from hand, foot, and mouth disease of children, he said.

Cattle traders feed a cow at Restu Slamet Cage in Jakarta, Indonesia, 01 July 2022
Indonesia is conducting a mass vaccination program for livestock and taking steps to prevent the spread of the foot and mouth disease among cattle. Source: EPA

FMD is spread through contaminated feed and water, animal transport vehicles, and equipment, clothing and footwear.

Animals owners should be on alert and they need to report to the national Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline if any symptoms appear.

Symptoms include fever, extreme drooling, loss of appetite and weight, drop in milk production and blisters on the nose, tongue, lips, mouth, between the toes and around hooves.

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