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Maitland vet Kylie Greentree gets up close with foot and mouth disease in Nepal

Maitland vet Kylie Greentree gets up close with foot and mouth disease in Nepal

Mount Everest didn't figure in Kylie Greentree's plans when she visited Nepal recently. Nor did any trekking, although she did manage to squeeze one in at the end.

No, for the Rutherford vet, the highlight – and she knows this sounds weird – was to see foot and mouth disease first hand.

Yep, foot and mouth disease.

It is probably not as strange as it sounds because Kylie is District Vet for Hunter Local Land Services – her job is to safeguard animal herd health in the lower Hunter ... everything from herd disease investigation to surveillance, welfare and emergency preparedness.

Foot and mouth disease, while prevalent in many parts of the world including parts of Asia and Africa, is not a factor in Australia and that's how she wants to keep it. That's not to say we're safe – FMD, as she refers to it, is incredibly contagious among animals and as a country we must remain vigilant.

"We're fortunate in that FMD is not active here, but we need be aware that we can't become complacent," she said.

"It is incredibly contagious - not just cattle and pigs, but sheep and goats too.

"It is so easily spread, and it spreads fast. There was a breakout in the UK in 2001 and as recently as 2007, for instance. So it was important I found out what it looks like, what the early signs are. And sadly, it is endemic in Nepal, so it was a good place to learn."

Humans can carry the disease too, on their clothing and footwear – a key reason why international travellers are asked to declare if they have been in contact with livestock when coming through customs at the airport.

Maitland vet Kylie Greentree gets up close with foot and mouth disease in Nepal

"As major exporters of meat and livestock, an outbreak here would be devastating," Kylie explained.

"It has been estimated that direct costs over the 10 years following a FMD outbreak could be $6 billion for a small outbreak rising to over $51 billion for a large, multi-state outbreak."

So, how was Nepal?

"Really beautiful in parts, but in other places the devastation of the 2015 earthquake is still obvious.

"I managed a trek over the last two days around Nagarkot and the scenery was stunning. And the other thing you couldn't help but notice were the people who are so warm and welcoming."

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