Australia will import lumpy skin disease so scientists can develop a vaccine to prevent the infection spreading should it reach the nation’s shores.
- The live virus will be tested at the CSIRO’s Geelong facility
- Australia’s red meat and dairy sectors are concerned lumpy skin disease could shut down industry
- Agriculture Minister David Littleproud says there’s a genuine risk the disease will be “blown in” from Indonesia
Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the CSIRO’s Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness in Geelong would start testing the virus, which could decimate Australia’s red meat and dairy industries.
“This is a big step and one that I don’t take lightly, but such is the risk of lumpy skin that is now in Indonesia and can literally blow in,” Mr Littleproud said.
Lumpy skin disease is spread by flies, ticks and mosquitoes.
It causes fever, nodules on the animals’ skin and can lead to death.
It was detected in Indonesia early in March.
“This lumpy skin virus, I fear, will come, because it will just be blown in,” Mr Litteproud said.
It’s about 3,000 kilometres away at the moment.
Vaccine will be offered to neighbours
Mr Littleproud said Australia would look to provide the vaccine to other countries like Indonesia and Timor once it was developed.
Australia’s chief vet Mark Schipp recently backed calls from the cattle industry for lumpy skin to be imported.
Mr Schipp had returned from Indonesia, where the disease has been spreading through Sumatra’s Riau province.
The CSIRO’s Geelong facility is designed to handle infectious animal diseases, and previously developed the vaccine for the deadly horse virus, Hendra.
The Agriculture Minister was recently criticised by industry groups for providing inadequate funding for biosecurity, including protecting Australia from lumpy skin disease.
But Mr Littleproud said a task force would be set up to coordinate how the government’s $61-billion commitment to boosting northern Australian frontline biosecurity would be spent.
The task force will be led by Chris Parker, the former chief executive of the Australian Pests and Veterinary Medicines Authority.