Like many Australian farmers and veterinarians, I shuddered at the news that foot and mouth disease (FMD) had been detected in Indonesia, first in late April in East Java and Aceh.
Our alarm increased as the disease spread rapidly to at least 21 provinces, and to Bali by early July.
This is Australia's most feared exotic animal disease, and for good reason.
An outbreak here could cost $80 billion over 10 years due to control costs, livestock production losses and especially export trade losses.
The highly contagious viral disease affects cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, camels, and other cloven-hooved animals.
Infected animals may be contagious for several days before they show signs of disease, shedding virus in breath, saliva, mucus, milk and faeces.
Infected animals experience fever; blisters and erosions around the mouth, lips and tongue - making it painful for them to eat - as well as around the feet just near the hooves - causing lameness and often recumbency.
Milk production can plummet, animals lose weight and some, especially the young, will die, while others slowly recover.
FMD can spread to other animals by close contact, through infected animal products (such as pigs eating infected meat) or in contaminated mud or soil transported on shoes, tyres or clothes.
At low temperatures (4 degrees) and high humidity (60 per cent) the virus may spread some distance by wind.
Countries that are free of FMD place severe restrictions on livestock products from affected countries, and it may take years after an outbreak is eradicated to prove FMD freedom to international satisfaction.
The outbreak is a disaster for Indonesia, which was the first country in the world to eradicate FMD by vaccination, with significant assistance from the Australian government in the 1970s and early 1980s.
It took a huge and coordinated effort between the Australian and Indonesian governments to avoid a "stamping-out" policy, which would have meant slaughtering all affected animals.
Instead, we provided technical advice, bought an effective vaccine and supplying a complete "cold chain" - keeping the vaccine cold by ensuring there were cold rooms near major airport with emergency generators, fridges in provincial and district offices, and Eskys and thermoses to carry the vaccines into the field.
These efforts helped Indonesia eradicate FMD by 1986.
But the challenge this time is huge.
FMD's swift spread started during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in April. Ramadan ends with Lebaran - a three-day national holiday with family reunions right across the archipelago - and 40 days later comes Idhul Adha, a day of sacrifice.
All these involve a great deal of feasting, with consequent high livestock trading and prices.
There is temptation to smuggle animals, particularly smaller ruminants such as goats, in from Malaysia or between provinces and this may have precipitated the outbreak and its spread.
The outbreak coincides with Bali's reopening to tourists.
Australians are fleeing an icy winter in many parts of the country to enjoy some warmer days in one of our favourite holiday destinations.
Tourists could bring the disease back on their shoes and clothes - to counter this, authorities have rightly increased biosecurity measures at our borders, including more biosecurity officers and sniffer dogs, and disinfectant mats for passengers from Bali to walk over as they disembark.
But calls to suspend flights are excessive. Indonesia is only one of many FMD-infected countries around the world.
India, which has the world's largest cattle population - many walking at large in streets and markets - is also endemically affected by FMD. The same biosecurity measures now being applied to travellers returning from Bali need to be applied as good practice to travellers from many parts of the world.
Instead, the government should do more in educating travellers, for example using the Smart Traveller website, on biosecurity measures that tourists should be taking.
As it did during the last outbreak, the Australian government is providing advice and support to the Indonesian government. But since the last outbreak, Indonesia has matured enormously.
The government is mobilising a national response - an enormous challenge. It has instituted a cattle compensation rate for animals compulsorily slaughtered, is freeing up significant local budget and army and police assistance to enforce movement controls, and most importantly is making arrangements to obtain 28 million doses of vaccine as quickly as possible.
However, the human and livestock populations of Indonesia have increased significantly over the past 45 years, living standards have risen significantly and the volumes of internal travel and trade are enormous.
Repeating past eradication success will not be a quick or cheap process.
But if we are to protect Australian agriculture, we must remain vigilant and do everything we can to support Indonesia while preventing FMD from reaching our shores.
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