Feature: Another foot and mouth disease expert in our ranks

The Northern Territory now has five fully trained experts in Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) after the department’s Megan Pickering, Veterinary Officer in Katherine, attended training in Nepal.

FMD has the potential to decimate Australia’s cattle industry, so having experts who are trained in early detection is vital.

The estimated cost of a small‑scale, contained FMD outbreak in Australia is $7 billion over 12 months. A large scale outbreak could cost in excess of $50 billion.

Following the 2001 outbreak of FMD in the UK, experts recommended countries free from the disease create an incident-ready veterinary workforce to minimise future outbreaks.

In the past four years, more than 300 Australian and New Zealand veterinarians have been trained to recognise FMD, manage risks, conduct tracing and correctly sample the disease.

Delivered by the European Commission for the Control of Foot and Mouth Disease (EuFMD) in March 2019, the workshop included classroom theory, laboratory sample collection and handling, and field visits to examine animals with FMD and recently infected premises.

“One of my key responsibilities as a department veterinary officer is to provide leadership and management in emergency response, as well as manage disease investigation and surveillance services for the livestock industry,” Megan said.

“This training has strengthened my skills in emergency animal disease preparedness.”

FMD is a viral illness that affects cloven hoofed animals. The disease is predominantly spread from animal to animal through contaminated body fluids, and can be transmitted from humans to animals via clothing, footwear, equipment and vehicles.

Beyond education, the training provided Megan with valuable contacts.

“Everybody who completed the training stays in contact as part of an incident‑ready workforce,” she said. “There is also the possibility of being deployed overseas in the event of an FMD outbreak.”

Megan will be incorporating her learnings into industry workshops, and presentations to staff and other vets.


Last updated: 23 October 2019

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