Australia spends upward of $1 billion on biosecurity each year but the world's nasties keep sneaking in.
The nation was no sooner waking up to the discovery of Japanese encephalitis last week to find it had just as quickly been declared endemic.
Endemic is biosecurity speak for here to stay.
Exotic is the word experts use to describe something we want to keep out.
Japanese encephalitis, or JEV, was on the biosecurity watch list but was ranked well below African Swine Fever or Foot and Mouth Disease which have a nightmare potential to devastate our livestock industries.
The frightening thing is authorities still don't know JEV got in.
And like the COVID-19 virus, they are almost impossible to stop.
Like most of these worrying pest diseases and weeds, they are out of control just to our north leap-frogging down Torres Strait.
Sometimes we bring them in ourselves.
Think rabbits, prickly pear or even cane toads.
Gamba grass was brought in from Africa in the 1930s as a cattle feed and is now a massive fire hazard across the north.
The list is long.
The best guess is JEV flew over our defences on the wings of infected mosquitoes or migratory waterbirds.
How it came to be first detected in the southernmost mainland state of Victoria and is already spreading in South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland is a real surprise.
It could have been here for weeks, maybe months.
Viral immunologist Dr Ali Zaid from the Griffith University's Menzies Health Institute in Queensland said there was an outbreak of JEV in northern Australia back in 1995 and detections in 2005.
Dr Zaid said birds, especially migratory birds "might be carrying the virus around" and that pigs are good amplifying hosts.
"There is a theoretical concern that migratory birds could carry the virus southwards in Australia, even as far as Victoria," federal government health experts say.
Authorities still don't know how the dog killer ehrlichiosis got in either.
Only that it was first found in far north Western Australia in May 2020.
There have been confirmed cases of the tick-borne disease across the mainland even though COVID border closures has likely slowed its spread.
Just before that disease was found, the crop destroyer fall armyworm began its speedy march south after being confirmed in north Queensland in January 2020.
Just over a year later it was confirmed in Victoria.
Fall armyworm, like ehrlichiosis which was soon to follow, and now JEV, authorities quickly decided they all are "not technically feasible to eradicate".
Even last week there was some discussion about the potential for culling infected pig herds to be rid of JEV but the experts said it would already be in feral pig populations and waterbirds - too hard and too late.
Besides an infected pig is still safe to eat.
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One of the only pests we have had success with in recent times is citrus canker.
That nasty plant disease popped up in Darwin in April 2018.
It soon moved south through the Northern Territory to Katherine and then emerged in northern WA.
Lots of money and lots of effort was thrown at canker to the point it was official declared eradicated in April 2021.
Panama disease is another which has spread quickly among banana plantations when it has popped up over the past few decades across the NT and Queensland.
The disease can lie dormant in the soil for years which is why the war to stop its spread will likely never end.
Many of these viruses and diseases, like JEV and ehrlichiosis, currently have no cure.
JEV is unusual in that it has a vaccine.
Encephalitis has been a killer in Australia for many years, in different guises.
The Murray Valley strain has sparked epidemics and many deaths over the decades since it arrived, again blamed on mosquitoes.
MVE is the reason many towns in riverland areas still have sentinel flocks of chickens which are regularly checked for signs of infection to give the alarm.
Of course there is also Ross River Fever which has authorities on high alert after the most recent flooding rains will likely increase dangers from mosquitoes.
African swine fever is the clear and present danger, already endemic to our north but again the list of "exotics" is extremely long.
Just last week at the ABARES Outlook conference there was a high-level discussion on Australia's biosecurity danger.
Speakers agreed throwing buckets of money to shore up Australia's biosecurity won't fix the problem.
Australia's director of biosecurity Andrew Metcalfe said even though more than $1 billion was available this year to fund biosecurity protection the development of future strategies was needed to better focus the spending.
"Biosecurity must evolve to meet the future needs of globalisation," he said.
CSIRO modelling shows even almost tripling investment in interventions out to 2025 would still result in increased residual biosecurity risk compared with 2014-2015 levels.
Queensland's chief biosecurity officer Malcolm Letts emphasised the importance of better data gathering and development of new technology.
More spending on detection dogs, 3D X-ray technology at airports and shipping container tracking technology.
For now, all the attention is on the development of a national biosecurity strategy which has been released for public feedback and comment.
Read that draft here.
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