Australia is truly fortunate to be free from many harmful animal diseases and works hard to preserve this status. Separate incidents of Hendra virus in Queensland and New South Wales have provided a timely reminder that maintaining response readiness is a full time and necessary priority.
To protect its high animal health status, Australia has pre-agreed Australian Veterinary Emergency Plan (AUSVETPLAN) disease response documents in place for 63 significant emergency animal diseases including Hendra virus, rabies, equine influenza (EI) and foot and mouth disease. These plans and response policy briefs are developed by government, industry and other relevant stakeholders in ‘peace time’ and are always ready in case they need to be activated.
Animal Health Australia AUSVETPLAN Manager Dr Peter Dagg said the response plans proved their worth during the 2007 EI outbreak when the disease strategy was successfully used to control and then eradicate the disease.
Using the pre-agreed strategy greatly assisted the eradication of EI within six months despite many saying it would be impossible,” said Dr Dagg.
Similarly, pre-agreed principles are in place for responding to a Hendra virus outbreak under the government and industry Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement (EADRA). Serious health implications for humans as well as the horse population mean that Hendra virus is classified as a ‘Category 2’ disease. This means that if the EADRA is activated industry and government would share response costs, with government paying the greater share.
Although to date the Agreement has not been activated for Hendra virus, government personnel are using the principles to manage the active cases in New South Wales and Queensland. Cooperation with other state and territory departments also means that everyone is at the ready in the event of further cases emerging. If the number of cases increases, a representative group of government and industry personnel will determine whether to activate the EADRA.
“Because procedures have been pre-determined, everyone can get on with the job of responding to the specifics of these Hendra virus cases and be confident that they have the support of tried and true response mechanisms.”
“Regular, coordinated reviews keep Australia’s official response plans up to date and the response mechanisms ensure that everyone who needs to be involved in a response has a place at the table,” said Dr Dagg.
“In the case of Hendra virus, we are still dealing with isolated cases at a few locations, so a national response is not necessary; but if that situation changes we are well prepared.”
Animal Health Australia is custodian of the EADRA and AUSVETPLAN and is responsible for keeping them up to date.
For further information about Animal Health Australia and AUSVETPLAN, including all of Australia’s animal disease response strategies, please visit www.animalhealthaustralia.com.au.