Minister for Agriculture Dugald Saunders has convened an industry taskforce on Lumpy Skin Disease at a roundtable meeting with key cattle industry representatives and stakeholders this week.

Mr Saunders updated stakeholders on the NSW Government’s work in preparing for a possible outbreak of Lumpy Skin Disease, and discussed industry readiness against the highly infectious viral disease, which affects all breeds of cattle and water buffalo.

“Right now, Australia is free of Lumpy Skin Disease, but confirmed detections in Indonesia and Singapore and the recent spread of Japanese Encephalitis Virus from South East Asia into northern and then southern Australia has put the country on high alert for potential incursions on our doorstep,” Mr Saunders said.

“With the spread of Lumpy Skin Disease in Indonesia, we have lost our only geographic buffer against this destructive disease and now need to focus our efforts on prevention and eradication.

“The NSW Government, through NSW Department of Primary Industries and in partnership with other jurisdictions, is implementing an action plan for Lumpy Skin Disease preparedness.

“Industry preparedness and coordination is a critical element in mitigating the risk and minimising the potential impacts of Lumpy Skin Disease on producers and consumers.”

Mr Saunders said he had asked the NSW Department of Primary Industries to investigate the development of a Lumpy Skin Disease vaccine using mRNA technology, which offers significant advantages over traditional methods based on live or attenuated virus.

“If Lumpy Skin Disease reaches Australia, there would be significant consequences for beef, water buffalo and dairy cattle industries, with substantial trade impacts if we don’t act immediately,” Mr Saunders said.

“That’s why the development of an mRNA vaccine instead of a traditional vaccine will be incredibly effective; it is cheaper, faster and carries less risk to market access.”

The estimated daily cost to the NSW cattle industry would be $6 million if an incursion of Lumpy Skin Disease were to occur.

Animal Health Australia CEO Kathleen Plowman agreed exploring new technology such as mRNA vaccines was essential to minimising the long-term impacts of Lumpy Skin Disease and other virulent diseases in the cattle industry.

“It’s critical we have a vaccine strategy to help the industry manage these threats, and the advantages mRNA technology offers in terms of efficacy and ongoing market access make it a clear priority in terms of both development and implementation.”

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