National Significant Disease Investigation Program

Subsidies for veterinarians who investigate significant disease incidents in livestock or wildlife

Australia is fortunate to be free of most of the serious diseases that affect animals in other parts of the world. This favours our trade and market access, farm productivity, public health, and wildlife biodiversity. Ongoing general surveillance[2] is important to maintain our favourable animal health status and for the early detection of animal disease emergencies. The value of general surveillance has been demonstrated in the early detection of previous outbreaks of emergency diseases in Australia: Menangle virus in a New South Wales piggery in 1997; sporadic Hendra virus in Queensland horses since 1994, and sporadic anthrax in New South Wales and Victoria.

Veterinary practitioners play a key role in general surveillance in Australia, providing expertise for evaluating, clinically investigating and reporting outbreaks of significant disease in animals. However, full investigations are often limited by competing priorities and commercial realities such as the low economic value of individual animals relative to the cost of veterinary services.

The National Significant Disease Investigation (NSDI) Program, managed by Animal Health Australia, commenced in June 2009 and supports investigation of approximately 350 cases across Australia annually. The program is funded from livestock industry and government subscriptions and aims to boost Australia’s capacity for the early detection of emerging and emergency animal diseases by recruiting greater participation of veterinary practitioners in disease investigations.

Investigation subsidies and eligible veterinary practitioners

The NSDI Program subsidises veterinary practitioners who investigate and report on outbreaks of significant disease incidents in livestock and wildlife. Subsidies of $325 (remote location investigations[1]) and $225 (local investigations) are available for an initial field and clinical investigation, and also for a follow-up investigation (maximum subsidy $650). Larger payments are available in some states. In return, the practitioner must provide a case report of the investigation to their state/territory department of primary industries. The NSDI Program also subsidises the department cost of laboratory analyses.

Eligible veterinary practitioners are registered, non-government veterinarians engaged in clinical veterinary medicine, including veterinary practitioners in wildlife parks.

What are significant disease incidents?

A significant disease incident includes the following characteristics:

  • atypical morbidity, mortality and/or rate of disease spread;
  • clinical signs consistent with an exotic disease without a clear alternative diagnosis;
  • Incidents where an initial investigation fails to establish a diagnosis however findings suggest the potential for significant trade or market access, farm productivity, public health, or wildlife biodiversity conservation impacts.

Important: Where there is a genuine suspicion of a NOTIFIABLE ANIMAL DISEASE, it is the veterinary practitioner’s legal responsibility to notify their state or territory animal health authority. A list of notifiable animal diseases can be found at: www.daff.gov.au/animal-plant-health/pests-diseases-weeds/animal/notifiable

Steps

  • The veterinary practitioner becomes aware of a case that fits the criteria of a ‘significant’ incident;
  • The veterinary practitioner contacts their government department of primary industries to confirm the availability of an investigation subsidy and arrangement for laboratory testing;
  • Diagnostic specimens for laboratory testing are submitted to the animal health laboratory as directed by their department of primary industries;
  • The veterinary practitioner reports full investigation details, including their assessment and any laboratory reports, to the department of primary industries using the form as requested by the department or using the ROADE form available for download: Record of Animal Disease Event (ROADE) form;
  • Payments are made to the veterinary practitioner at the discretion of their department of primary industries (note that veterinary practitioner billing of clients is entirely independent of this program).

Benefits of the program

The benefits of this program are broad with a great potential to grow. Summary case data (including presenting symptoms), animal numbers and the response taken, will be collated centrally in the National Animal Health Information System. This data will enable future analysis of disease trends and assist the promotion of general surveillance capacity in Australia, as it will show the activity of veterinary practitioners over space and time. Australia’s general surveillance capability will be significantly strengthened by a greater involvement of veterinary practitioners promoted through this program.

For further information

Please contact one of the following:

State and territory National SDI Program Coordinators

State or territory Coordinator Phone Email
New South Wales Dr Rory Arthur 02 6391 3608 rory.arthur@industry.nsw.gov.au
Northern Territory Sue Fitzpatrick 0407 498 003 Susanne.Fitzpatrick@nt.gov.au
Queensland Janine Barrett 07 3087 8017 janine.barrett@daff.qld.gov.au
South Australia Jeremy Rogers 08 8539 2110 Jeremy.Rogers@sa.gov.au
Tasmania Mary Lou Conway 03 6233 6330 marylou.conway@dpiw.tas.gov.au
Victoria Cameron Bell 03 5430 4545 Cameron.Bell@dpi.vic.gov.au
Western Australia Katie Webb 08 9368 3360 katie.webb@agric.wa.gov.au

The contact details for each state and territory AWHN coordinator are available on the Australian Wildlife Health Network website.


1Locations are considered remote when significant extra travelling is required by the practitioner compared with routine visits and is at the discretion of the department veterinary officer.

2General surveillance is based on a network of people and organisations that detect, investigate and diagnose morbidity and mortality events. General surveillance is often opportunistic in nature, can generate a broad picture of the disease situation within a region, and has the potential to raise alerts to emergency disease events.