Foot-and-mouth disease

Outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in neighbouring countries threaten Western Australia's livestock and export industries. Together we can protect WA, and wider Australia’s livestock and export industries, from the risk of an outbreak.
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Outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in neighbouring countries threaten Western Australia's livestock and export industries. It is critical that international travellers arriving in WA and local livestock producers familiarise themselves with the disease and preventative measures. Together we can protect WA, including the livestock sector and our export markets, from the risk of an outbreak. 

What is foot-and-mouth disease?

FMD is a highly infectious and contagious viral disease affecting cloven-hoofed animals (e.g. cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, buffalo, camels, alpaca, llama and deer). It is not a risk for human health and safety and is not the same as hand, foot and mouth disease which is often contracted by children.

How does foot-and-mouth disease spread?

FMD is highly contagious and spreads through contact with infected animals, contaminated animal products (such as meat and dairy), vehicles, equipment and people.

Although the virus does not affect people, it can be spread from person to cloven-hoofed animals and make these animals sick.

With neighbouring countries currently managing FMD outbreaks, there is a risk of the disease entering Western Australia via imported meat or dairy products or overseas travellers, which is why it is important to pay attention to the following advice.

Why is foot-and-mouth disease a serious problem for Western Australia?

FMD is one of Australia’s greatest biosecurity risks. An outbreak would have devastating social and financial impacts on Australia’s livestock industries, as well as our trade and tourism.

On a national level, it's estimated that a multi-state outbreak within Australia would have an impact of more than $80 billion over 10 years. It would also affect Western Australia's access to livestock and livestock product exports, worth $2 billion annually.

How could foot-and-mouth disease enter Western Australia?

FMD could enter Australia through:

  • Imported or mailed contaminated meat and dairy products.
  • Objects, such as footwear, contaminated with the virus that come into contact with susceptible animals.

It is critical that returning travellers follow biosecurity advice to limit the risk of an FMD outbreak in Western Australia.

The Federal Government has detailed response plans in place if an outbreak was to occur. Early detection increases the chance of the successful eradication of FMD. Livestock producers should remain vigilant for and report a suspected infection immediately to a veterinarian, your Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development veterinarian, or the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888.

Important advice for travellers about foot-and-mouth disease

Where foot-and-mouth disease is found

  • Indonesia, including Bali
  • The Middle East
  • Africa

To help protect WA on your return you must:

  • Ensure all footwear, clothing, bikes, backpacks, camping and other equipment is free of mud and animal manure. Any items that may pose a risk, may be inspected by a biosecurity officer at the airport.
  • Not bring meat or dairy products to WA. If you do, you MUST declare them for inspection.
  • Avoid bringing back any souvenirs or other goods made of hide or containing animal hair.
  • Declare any contact you had with farmlands, zoos or rural areas holding livestock while you were away.
  • Avoid contact with farmland and livestock for the first seven days when you arrive home if you've been to a country with FMD.

To clean your shoes, equipment and belongings:

  • Remove loose contamination such as soil and manure
  • Thoroughly scrub and wash the external surfaces including shoe laces and velcro by using soap, water and a brush
  • Dry thoroughly. Repeat the procedure if any contamination materials remain visible.

More information

Check the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry website for the latest biosecurity-related travel information including:

Information for livestock producers and veterinarians

In addition to increased biosecurity measures, livestock producers and veterinarians can help prevent and prepare for an FMD outbreak.

Prepare by doing the following:

1. Know the signs of FMD in animals
2. Understand how FMD spreads amongst livestock
3. Know what to do if you suspect there is an animal infected with FMD
4. Create or review your biosecurity plan for your property

If your livestock are showing signs of foot-and-mouth disease, immediately call the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888 (free call within Australia). Find information and advice for local livestock producers and veterinarians (external link).

What are the signs of foot-and-mouth disease in animals?

Livestock producers and veterinarians must become familiar with the signs of FMD in cloven-hoofed livestock. The severity of FMD signs can vary between cattle, sheep and pigs.

Common clinical signs include:

  • blisters in the mouth, nostrils, tongue, lips, teats or the skin between and above the animal’s hooves. These blisters are often not obvious until they have ruptured.
  • excessive slobbering or drooling
  • limping, lameness and a reluctance to move
  • severe depression
  • loss of appetite
  • sudden death in young animals
  • a large drop in yield in milk producing animals

FMD symptoms in an infected animal can vary depending on the species and the strain of the virus.

Veterinarians can find detailed information on the clinical signs of FMD through the National pest & disease outbreaks’ free Emergency Animal Diseases Field Guide [external site].

What should I do if I suspect an animal has FMD?

If you notice any of the above signs of foot-and-mouth disease in your livestock, you must:

Protect your vulnerable livestock and industry by reporting signs of FMD early. Early detection will help control the spread of the disease and reduce the impact an outbreak has on industry workers and the economy.

Veterinarians can view the Veterinary Emergency Plan (AUSVETPLAN), which provides the national plan for an FMD outbreak.

How does FMD spread amongst livestock?

The virus is present in an infected animal’s blisters, saliva, urine, manure, milk and breath.

The virus spreads between animals by:

  • Direct contact with an infected animal
  • Air-borne particles from infected animals
  • Movement of infected animals
  • Movement of contaminated animal products (such as wool or manure), vehicles, equipment and people.

The virus can remain viable in the environment for several weeks. Low humidity, high temperatures and acidic soils help to defuse the virus.

Domestic and feral pigs pose a risk in the spreading the virus to other cloven-hoofed animals.

Do I need a biosecurity plan for my farm?

Yes, a biosecurity plan is essential to prepare for and reduce the potential impact of FMD and other diseases. If you have an existing plan, you should review and update your plan, as necessary.

Your biosecurity plan should be customised for your property but there are common strategies that all farms can apply to protect Australian livestock from disease:

  • Maintain accurate records of livestock and product movements to and from your property.
  • Inspect newly introduced livestock for signs of illness on arrival. All new livestock should be quarantined and monitored for 7-10 days.
  • Keep boundary fences and gates secure. This will minimise the likelihood of livestock from straying the property and prevent feral animals from entering your property.
  • Have a contractor and visitor car park away from livestock.
  • Install facilities to disinfect shoes and farm vehicles.
  • If you have visited another property with livestock, clean and disinfect vehicles and footwear. You should also change clothing before having contact with your own animals.
  • If you, a family or staff member have travelled overseas recently, ensure they have not had contact with farmland or livestock in an FMD infected country. If they have, they must stay away from your property and livestock for 7 days after their return.

Other resources to create or review your farm’s biosecurity plan are available. Refer to the Farm Biosecurity page's resources, including:

What decontamination procedures should veterinarians follow?

Veterinarians may be required to complete personal decontamination and should have their own personal kit prepared. The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) provides detailed guidelines for personal decontamination. AVA also provides a video on how to use a hazmat suit

Is laboratory testing for FMD required?

Yes, FMD cannot be diagnosed only on clinical grounds. Veterinarians will collect samples for laboratory testing to confirm or exclude suspected cases of FMD in livestock. Testing will also identify what strain of the virus is present. This information will assist in selecting a vaccine to assist in the management of an outbreak. 

What mandatory identification requirements do I need to follow?

Mandatory livestock ownership, identification and movement systems are in place in Western Australia. These systems assist in the control and eradication of disease by tracing infected or exposed livestock. Livestock producers should familiarise themselves with Livestock ownership, identification and movement in Western Australia.