The sudden emergence of Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) in multiple piggeries across 3 states within days of each other shows how quickly the disease landscape can change even with reduced risk such as less international travel. Australia enjoys a disease-free status of many of the diseases that are causing devastation overseas, but biosecurity and surveillance needs to be on continuous high alert. Recently, the Australian Chief Veterinary officer issued a high alert for avian influenza as over 40 countries across the world battle the outbreaks.
The most recent outbreak, Japanese encephalitis continues to be detected in commercial piggeries across Australia, mostly on the eastern seaboard. Since last week’s announcement of its detection in a piggery in Southeast Queensland, over 20 piggeries have become infected and a person who had been travelling in the region has been admitted to intensive care with Japanese encephalitis (JE), the disease caused by JEV.
At this time, it is unknown how the virus has come into Australia. JEV is an illness developed in pigs and horses and spread by infected mosquitoes. Shore birds can also play a role, especially with migratory birds flying to flood infected areas. It is an Emergency Animal Disease and is notifiable so if farmers are having late farrowing with abortions, still births and deformed piglets, Biosecurity Queensland needs to be notified. It’s important to know that pork from infected herds is safe to eat.
The swift way in which the disease is spreading and the implications on human and animal welfare demonstrates the critical role that biosecurity measures play in agriculture, and the broader community. The Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) is mindful of the potential for the disease to spread to the already large population of feral pigs, increasing its reach greatly.
This again raises the importance of pest animal management and highlights the direct biosecurity risk ineffective control of wild pigs and other pest animals can have on Queensland’s farming sector. It is imperative that pest management is a priority and that government works with farmers to ensure effective and consistent pest management policy is in place and operational plans delivered on ground each and every year.