Western Australia's campaign to eradicate tuberculosis in cattle - one of the world's largest animal disease eradication programs - has reached an important milestone with no known infected herds now in the State.
Agriculture Minister Ernie Bridge said WA had been declared `impending free' of the disease, an achievement which would help Australia maintain its advantage in world beef export markets.
"In the 1950s, before the campaign began, many Western Australians had been infected from drinking unpasteurised milk or eating contaminated meat," he said.
"The need to protect public health, prevent loss of cattle production, and protect our export markets prompted the Government and industry to combine funding and resources to tackle the problem, and we are now seeing the results of that massive and long-running effort."
Mr Bridge said that over the past 20 years, veterinarians and landholders had tested more than a million cattle from 5,000 herds, both in the field and in abattoirs.
"The greatest challenge has been to eradicate the disease from the Pilbara and Kimberley regions, where terrain and conditions have made it extremely difficult to locate and test animals," he said.
"Everyone involved in that exercise can feel justifiably proud of their efforts, which have led to this new impending free status."
Mr Bridge warned, however, that cattle producers and pastoralists could not now become complacent.
"It is still possible we will find cases of the disease over the next few years as tuberculosis can remain undetected for some time. This means monitoring will continue for at least another five years."
Bovine tuberculosis is found in most other countries in the world and is thought to have entered Australia with cattle imported last century.