NB, CSIRO states below that Myxomatosis has never become established in New Zealand only 2000 miles away from Australia where Myxomatosis is deliberately spread as a biocontrol of wild rabbits. What CSIRO neglects to say is that for Myxomatosis to operate successfully as a biological control agent, there must be vectors (carriers) to transmit Myxomatosis between rabbits. eg rabbit fleas and certain types of mosquitoes. Australia deliberately imported the European Rabbit Flea and the Spanish Rabbit Flea (in the 1990's) to help spread Myxomatosis. Australia also has different mosquito species to NZ. New Zealand has not the vectors to sustain Myxomatosis even though an attempt was made to introduce this disease to NZ in the past, this attempt failed because of lack of vectors/carriers. Subsequently, NZ said NO to Myxomatosis (especially after a strange debilitating virus of humans appeared at the same time in the same area as Myxomatosis was released and failed in NZ many years ago).

Also, with regards to quarantine, no island is and island really. This is naive thinking. Flu viruses travel the world on humans and possibly by birds and recently Newcastle Disease appeared in Australia and so may have Bursal Disease Virus (August 1999). Fish farmers are scared of fishborne diseases on imported salmon etc and poultry farmers are fearful of imported diseases on imported poultry meat. The "island continent quarantine benefit" implication is a fallacy and commonsense would dictate that no island is an island to infectious diseases.
From CSIRO Website

Breakout - International concerns at CSIRO website


According to CSIRO website "As an island continent with a predominantly marsupial mammalian fauna, Australia proved very vulnerable to damage and depredation by alien mammals introduced by European settlers. But Australia's new initiative to rid its landscapes of destructive pests like the rabbit, fox and mouse, using genetically modified viruses, is arousing some concern in the homelands of these mammals and closely related species in the northern hemisphere."

The information further states "The concern is that the sterilising viruses might escape from Australia and decimate mammal populations in Europe, Asia and North America. Various fox species ranging across Africa, Europe, Asia and North America could be vulnerable to any infectious virus used to sterilise feral foxes in Australia, reinforcing the need for species-specificity in any transmissible virus."

The discussion also states"The same is true of rabbits: in the Americas, wildlife scientists fear that a recombinant myxoma virus, although non-lethal, could still sterilise Sylvilagus rabbits - some North American Sylvilagus species are already rare."

CSIRO also raises the point that "A further hurdle is that the Organisation for International Epizootics has adopted, as policy, a recommendation that only non-transmissible vectors be used for fertility control of wild dogs and other canids."

CSIRO then addresses these concerns by stating "But such concerns must be weighed against Australia's national interests, and the evidence of the historic record. Australia's geographic isolation, reinforced by strict quarantine measures, has successfully protected Australia from exotic viruses for two centuries. And the fact that the myxoma virus has not become established in New Zealand, less than 2000 kilometres across the Tasman Sea during the past 45 years, reinforces the low probability of a recombinant myxoma virus crossing the Tasman to establish itself in New Zealand rabbit populations."

They also write "Australia's quarantine measures are designed to exclude foreign viruses, not to prevent custom-designed viruses escaping from the continent. Special attention would have to be given to potential escape routes, most notably, the international trade in pedigree cats and rabbits. It was probably via this route that a new virus that appeared in farmed rabbits in China in 1983 reached Europe soon after. Rabbit calicivirus, which is almost universally lethal to European rabbits, killed millions of farmed and wild rabbits, and eventually crossed the Atlantic to infect farmed European rabbits in Mexico."

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