It is estimated that a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak will cost Australian rural industries more than $13 billion over a ten year period, with up to 70% of losses coming in the first year. The presence of such emerging infections is of paramount consideration in Australia's international trade of livestock and products, as an exotic diseases (ED) outbreak will create an access barrier to high value markets - leading to lost production, losses in market share, and increased eradication and control costs.

A study published by Blackwell Publishing in the October 2006 issue of Australian Veterinary Journal, (the scientific journal of the Australian Veterinary Association) aims to assess the management factors that would influence the establishment and spread of ED in pigs within the Sydney region in New South Wales - a natural focal point for the study as the region contains a wide variety of agricultural enterprises with a high concentration of intensive production including pig production.

Researchers identified several factors - including the feeding of meat scraps (more commonly known as swill), poor farmer knowledge and the movement of pigs via sale yards - that may facilitate the establishment and spread of vesicular and other ED in pigs.

Researchers collected vendor and purchaser details by attending two sale yards in the Sydney region over a 12 month period and mapped out the pig producer locations. In addition, all pig farmers on the Department of Primary Industries temporary brand register were surveyed to record their management practices and knowledge of exotic pig diseases. Swine brands were also inspected to determine their quality as a tracing mechanism.

Lead author Nicole Schembri, from the University of Sydney, said, "Australia is privileged to be free of the major epidemic diseases of livestock, and is relatively free of other serious animal diseases - this high health status must be attributed to the strict quarantine protocols, early detection and timely responses to curbing the spread of exotic diseases if and when they do occur."

One of the more likely ways that exotic pig diseases may be introduced in the country is via the illegal importation of meat products contaminated with virus. The routine nature of international travel, volume of legally imported foodstuffs and the difficulty of uniformly policing quarantine regulations lead to a risk of the introduction of ED.

Ms. Schembri added, "Increased regulatory presence, proper identification of pigs, vendors and purchasers, as well as purchaser education will potentially reduce this risk dramatically."

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This study is published in Australian Veterinary Journal (Vol. 84, Issue 10).

About Australian Veterinary Journal

Over the past 80 years the Australian Veterinary Journal (AVJ) has been providing the veterinary profession with cutting edge clinical and scientific veterinary research, case reports, reviews, news and timely coverage of industry issues. The AVJ is Australia's premier veterinary science journal distributed monthly to over 5,500 Australian Veterinary Association members and subscribers.

About Blackwell Publishing

Blackwell Publishing is the world's leading society publisher, partnering with 665 academic and professional societies. Blackwell publishes over 800 journals and, to date has published close to 6,000 books, across a wide range of academic, medical, and professional subjects.

The views expressed in the Australian Veterinary Journal do not in any way reflect the official views of the Australian Veterinary Association.

For more information on Blackwell Publishing, please visit Blackwell Publishing Ltd. or blackwell-synergy.
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