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 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.
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) 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.
A significant disease incident includes the following characteristics:
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
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|
|New South Wales||Dr Rory Arthur||02 6391 firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Northern Territory||Sue Fitzpatrick||0407 498 003||Susanne.Fitzpatrick@nt.gov.au|
|Queensland||Janine Barrett||07 3087 email@example.com|
|South Australia||Jeremy Rogers||08 8539 2110||Jeremy.Rogers@sa.gov.au|
|Tasmania||Mary Lou Conway||03 6233 firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Victoria||Cameron Bell||03 5430 4545||Cameron.Bell@dpi.vic.gov.au|
|Western Australia||Jamie Finkelstein||08 9368 email@example.com|
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.