New diseases are being passed from animals to humans
Infectious diseases previously unknown in humans have been increasing steadily over the last three decades. More than 70 per cent of these emerging diseases are zoonotic in nature – passing from animals to people, for example influenzas from poultry or pigs, Ebola, sudden acute and Middle East respiratory syndromes (SARS, MERS), and Nipah and Hendra viruses.
Zoonotic infections have always been a part of the human disease landscape, with many originating from domestic animals. But with changes in environment, human behaviour and habitat destruction, these biosecurity threats are increasingly emerging from wildlife species such as bats and birds.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and most infectious disease experts agree that the source of the next human pandemic is likely to be zoonotic and wildlife is likely the prime suspect. While much effort has understandably focused on preparing against avian influenza, the next deadly pandemic may be the result of a currently unknown zoonotic agent.
Reducing infectious disease threats in Australia protects our community and farming industries.
Despite Australia’s strict quarantine procedures, a zoonotic disease outbreak is a constant risk to economy, environment and community. The potential impacts of a disease outbreak include illness in humans, domestic animals and wildlife.
Diseases have the potential to devastate our multi-billion dollar livestock and aquatic industries due to a ban on our license to trade. There are also significant economic costs involved in the mitigation of and recovery from a disease.
Our scientists are world class
It is impossible to completely safeguard against zoonotic diseases but steps can and are being taken to limit the opportunity for spill-over events through monitoring and rapid response when and where they do occur.
Controlling zoonotic diseases and protecting our animals, people and environment from increasing biosecurity threats will not only take a global effort but a multidisciplinary one. It cannot be addressed adequately with traditional human medical strategies where disease is fought in the human population only.
A robust national disease surveillance program
Our Australian Centre for Diseases Preparedness (ACDP - formerly known as AAHL) is one of the most sophisticated laboratories in the world for the safe handling, containment, diagnosis and research of animal and zoonotic diseases.
ACDP provides advice to Australian government and industry groups on biosecurity, and assists Asia Pacific countries deal with animal disease issues that challenge regional food security and biosecurity.
ACDP investigates, identifies, and characterises potential new exotic and emergency animal disease outbreaks and provides advice on disease mitigation and outbreak response. We actively contribute to Australia’s ongoing preparedness around foot and mouth disease and avian influenza, while also conducting research into current viruses of concern such as Ebola.