Vet on foot-and-mouth fact-finding tour

Ivan Holloway studies a video on foot-and-mouth disease at Vetlife Oamaru in preparation before flying to Nepal to learn more about the disease. Photo by Sally Brooker.
Ivan Holloway studies a video on foot-and-mouth disease at Vetlife Oamaru in preparation before flying to Nepal to learn more about the disease. Photo by Sally Brooker.
A vet from Oamaru is off to the other side of the world in an international project to protect this country's livestock.

Vetlife Oamaru principal Ivan Holloway is one of 12 New Zealanders selected to take part in a trip to Nepal to learn first-hand about foot-and-mouth.

The highly-contagious viral disease affects cloven-hoofed animals including sheep, cattle, pigs, goats and deer.

If it ever got into New Zealand, it would stop exports of meat, dairy products and animal by-products while thousands of animals were slaughtered.

The Ministry for Primary Industries said our country's trade reputation would be damaged, about 20,000 jobs would be in jeopardy, and the gross domestic product would lose $10 billion in two years.

The European Commission for Foot-and-Mouth Disease, part of the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation, is taking action to help prevent outbreaks in parts of the world not yet exposed to the virus.

In conjunction with the Ministry for Primary Industries, it has assembled a team to travel from New Zealand to Nepal for ''real time training in foot-and-mouth disease''.

Mr Holloway is among rural practice and ministry vets, plus industry representatives, who will be based in Kathmandu from June 2 to 6.

He heard of the project through the New Zealand Veterinary Association, then was approached by AsureQuality to apply.

Mr Holloway is an AsureQuality Initial Investigating Veterinarian for the area from the Waitaki River to Stewart Island and the West Coast, rostered on call in the event of a biosecurity emergency.

He said he was ''honoured'' to have been selected.

''I'm pretty stoked. I'm increasingly interested in biosecurity.''

The schedule in Nepal was described by its organisers as ''an intensive, four-day programme''.

A day of classroom training would be followed by visits to suspected outbreaks, collecting information, testing samples either on-site or in a laboratory, and tracing animal movements to find the source and spread of infection.

The New Zealanders would report back to the Nepalese government, Mr Holloway said.

The ministry wanted to have a network of skilled people ready to intercept and handle an outbreak here before it became a major threat, Mr Holloway said.

Upon his return from Nepal, he would present what he had learned to colleagues.

However, first he would have to stand down from any animal handling work for a week, in case he still had the virus on him.

He would be fully suited-up in protective gear while exposed to it in Nepal, where it was endemic.

Before departing, Mr Holloway had to have three rounds of vaccinations for everything from typhoid, meningitis and flu to cholera and rabies.

He has been advised not to drink anything that is not bottled or eat any fruit that cannot be peeled.

The New Zealanders have a 10-hour flight to Singapore for an overnight rest, then another five hours direct to Kathmandu.

''They want us there fresh.''

However, the team does not have the luxury of a stopover on the way home.

Visiting the Himalayan region was ''something I've always had on my bucket list'', he said.

Although he was allowed to stay on afterwards, he had opted not to - it would not be fair on his colleagues at the Oamaru practice and he would rather go travelling with his family.

Now there was just the online course to complete before flying out tomorrow.