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National Significant Disease Investigation Program

Animal Health Australia (AHA) manages the National Significant Disease Investigation Program (NSDIP) to provide subsidies for nongovernment veterinarians who investigate significant disease incidents in livestock or wildlife.

The NSDIP commenced in June 2009 and supports investigation of around 350 cases across Australia annually.

Funded from livestock industry and government subscriptions, the program helps boost Australia’s capacity for the early detection of emerging or emergency animal diseases in livestock and wildlife by recruiting greater participation of nongovernment veterinarians in disease investigations.

General surveillance of animal diseases

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.

Using a network of people and organisations that detects, investigates and diagnoses morbidity and mortality events, general surveillance of animal disease:

  • serves a specific purpose for a large number of diseases that occur sporadically
  • can generate a broad picture of the disease situation in a region
  • has the potential to raise alerts to emergency disease events.

Ongoing general surveillance is important to maintain our favourable animal health status and for the early detection of animal disease emergencies.

General surveillance has proven its value in Australia with the early detection of previous outbreaks of emergency diseases:

  • Menangle virus in a New South Wales (NSW) piggery in 1997
  • sporadic Hendra virus in Queensland and northern NSW horses since 1994
  • sporadic anthrax in NSW and Victoria.

Investigation subsidies and eligible veterinary practitioners

Veterinary practitioners play a key role in Australia’s general surveillance network. They provide expertise for evaluating, clinically investigating and reporting outbreaks of significant disease in animals.

But full veterinary 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 NSDIP subsidises:

  • veterinary practitioners who investigate and report on significant disease incidents in livestock and wildlife
  • cost of laboratory analyses incurred by the state and territory departments of primary industries.

In return for the subsidy, the practitioner must provide a case report of the investigation to their state or territory department of primary industries.

To be eligible for the NSDIP, veterinary practitioners must be registered, non-government veterinarians engaged in clinical veterinary medicine, including veterinary practitioners in university clinics, zoos and wildlife parks.

What are significant animal disease incidents?

A significant animal disease incident could include:

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

Who’s responsible?

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.

Access to the list of national notifiable animal diseases is via the Australian Government’s Department of Agriculture website.

How to access the NSDIP

  1. The veterinary practitioner becomes aware of a case that fits the criteria of a ‘significant’ animal disease incident.
  2. The veterinary practitioner contacts their state or territory government department of primary industries to confirm the availability of an investigation subsidy and to arrange for laboratory testing.
  3. The veterinary practitioner collects and submits diagnostic specimens for laboratory testing to the animal health laboratory, as directed by their department of primary industries.
  4. The veterinary practitioner reports full investigation details, including their assessment and any laboratory reports, to their department of primary industries.
  5. The department pays the subsidy to the veterinary practitioner.

State and territory contacts

For further information, visit your relevant state or territory government website:

Visit the Wildlife Health Australia for information about reporting suspicious signs of disease or deaths in Australian wildlife.


Page reviewed: February 22, 2016