Officials in HAZMAT suits have been called to a potentially deadly Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreak involving pigs on a Tamworth farm. Luckily, it was just a practice run.
A group from Local Land Services (LLS) donned white overalls, goggles, gloves and gumboots, before pressure-hosing vehicles with disinfectant in a mock-scenario at a Calala property on March 23.
LLS's Megan Davies said it was important their staff practiced the strict decontamination process so they were well-trained and able to quickly respond to a potential FMD outbreak.
Ms Davies said that in a real-life situation, there would be a lot of stress, adrenaline and distressed farmers, so it was vital their staff had the "muscle memory" to know what to do.
FMD has not been detected in Australia but officials are on alert due to the country being at greater risk following the outbreak in Indonesia last year.
An outbreak in Australia would result in an estimated $80 billion hit to the economy due to the loss in production of meat and milk products, put the brakes on trade, and would almost certainly result in the slaughter of animals.
The practice took place at the Department of Primary Industries' owned farm located at the end of a winding gravel road behind the Tamworth Agricultural Institute sheep yards about 10:30 am.
In the mock scenario, professionally-trained members from LLS attended a local landholder's property to inspect some sick and dead pigs that had been assessed by a veterinarian as having symptoms associated with FMD.
There were no actual pigs at the practice site on Thursday but LLS staff did go through the process of putting on the personal protective equipment (PPE) and spraying vehicles with disinfectant.
LLS district veterinarian Heidi Austin said early-stage identification would include "red flags" such as there being a lot of unwell animals with a fever.
"They would probably be lame, and the cows would probably be chomping and salivating," Ms Austin said.
FMD impacts cloven-hoofed animals, mainly sheep, cows and pigs and is a highly-contagious disease.
Ms Austin said if they diagnose an animal with FMD they would euthanise the animal and start a three-day national livestock standstill to stop the spread.
"That would mean every cloven-hoofed animal across the country would stay where they are.
"If they are on a truck going somewhere, then they have four hours to go back to where they came from or to go forward to their destination."
Authorities would then try and contain it down to the smallest possible area, with buffer zones spreading out to either a 5 kilometre, 10km or 25km aerial precinct.
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