Nepal is a developing country where most livestock are kept in villages by individuals. These animals contribute to the nutritional, financial and social wellbeing of their owners. Nepalese people are predominantly Hindu, so they do not slaughter cattle for food. Cattle may contribute to production by either providing milk or converting rough straw into faeces that is used as fertilizer on fields where the owners grow vegetables, cereals and pulse crops. Goats contribute in the form of meat and milk.
The experiences of each individual involved in EU FMD Real-time Training in Nepal are dependent on the village and enterprises they visited. A few of the practical lessons learned in Nepal are outlined below.
LESSON 1 - FMD LOOKS JUST LIKE BOVINE EPHEMERAL FEVER
The early signs of FMD are vague a "sick" cow. Once they develop mouth lesions, the stringing drools and general malaise are very similar to clinical signs seen with bovine ephemeral fever (BEF). Alternatively, early foot lesions may appear similar to interdigital dermatitis. It is worth considering FMD as a differential when attending animals that are either drooling or lame.
LESSON 2 - FMD IS NOT A "ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL" DISEASE
Much of the collective wisdom in Australia relating to FMD is based on reports or firsthand experiences from the UK outbreak. Models use the speed of spread in the UK outbreak to plan for such a situation in Australia. The experiences from those who attended training in Nepal illustrate that the spread of FMD involves a complex social and environmental interaction.
Both authors were surprised at how slowly the disease spread throughout the farming villages of Nepal. In some instances, disease had been evident within a village for weeks, yet had not spread to the adjoining village 100m away. Within a village, a house with a cow that was clinically affected and shedding vast quantities of virus in saliva had neighbours with no clinical signs.
Spread appeared to be via:
This slow spread provides the opportunity to use vaccination to contain an outbreak. Course attendees speculate that vaccination might also be useful in the Australian situation, particularly in extensive grazing areas where livestock contact across boundaries is limited and the pattern of disease spread may be less like the UK and more like Nepal.
The apparent predominance of direct contact as the main method of transmission also highlights the importance in the Australian situation of identifying an outbreak before infected animals are sent to a saleyard.
LESSON 3 - EFFECTIVE EXTENSION ACTIVITIES ARE PARAMOUNT
When villagers were surveyed to determine potential risk factors in the spread of FMD, questions were also asked about barriers to the use of vaccine which is available in Nepal. In all cases, those interviewed were willing to vaccinate and pay for vaccine. The reason they did not was because they were concerned it could make their cows sick or abort. The vaccine is a killed vaccine. Just as in Australia, the importance of ensuring industry understands disease control and prevention is critical to successful programs.
Another issue to consider is the popularity of international travel by Australians to FMD countries in Asia. It is quite likely that Australian tourists contact FMD virus regularly across the subcontinent, for example, while undertaking a day trip around Kathmandu. Few Australians would suspect that they had been on "a farm" during one of these trips due to the completely different nature of farming in Asia. What is the likelihood that their contaminated shoes come into contact with a susceptible animal upon their return? Should Australian extension activities target livestock producers that visit Asian countries to warn them of the risk?
LESSON 4 - DIAGNOSTIC METHOD ALTERNATIVES SHOULD BE CONSIDERED
During EU FMD Real-time training, samples were taken from animals with clinical signs. Vesicular fluid, epithelial tissue and blood samples were taken. Pharyngeal fluid was collected via probang. These were tested in "crush side tests" and at the local laboratory. The crush side tests were "snap test" style kits for both antibody and antigen. The merits of these tests and their possible use in the Australian situation should be discussed as a part of FMD preparedness, as well as the availability of probangs.
There is a plethora of information available via the internet on FMD virus, lesions, and the behaviour of the disease in foreign countries. It is hoped that the experiences of the 5 District Veterinarians undertaking EU FMD Real-time Training in Nepal can assist in disseminating practical FMD information that can be applied to the Australian situation.