Stepping up surveillance skills for animal disease threats across northern Australia
More than 30 vets from northern Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland stepped up for a veterinary masterclass held in Broome in early March. The focus of the masterclass was to strengthen Australia’s preparedness to recognise and respond to disease outbreaks, particularly African swine fever.
Our northern animal health surveillance systems are currently focused on the threat of African swine fever entering Australia, particularly as the virulent pig disease has now spread to our close neighbours Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste and Indonesia.
Managing animal health surveillance across northern Australia is a herculean task that involves the collaboration and coordination of Commonwealth Government, Western Australian, Northern Territory and Queensland agencies and relies on the active involvement of private and government vets.
The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development recently facilitated an animal health surveillance masterclass for northern Australian veterinarians to strengthen Australia’s preparedness to recognise and respond to disease outbreaks, particularly African swine fever.
The masterclass, held in Broome from 6-7 March, attracted more than 30 vets from northern Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland, including each jurisdiction’s chief veterinary officer.
Recent international travel and border closures may have lessened some of the potential for the spread of African swine fever to Australia, but there is an ongoing threat from incoming mail containing illegally imported pork and illegally imported pork already present in the country that may contain the virus.
The masterclass took vets through the latest information on African swine fever and the sampling and post-mortem techniques needed to diagnose the disease. Participating vets were provided with a step-by-step guide to conducting a pig post-mortem and were also challenged by a hypothetical disease outbreak and asked how best to investigate and analyse it.
A range of other topics relating to disease investigation and surveillance were also covered in the masterclass.
Key presentations focused on current issues in the neighbouring Asia-Pacific region, investigating reproductive disease in northern Australia and the vital role that vets play in certifying that our stock are free from specific diseases.
It is this ability to demonstrate that we are free from priority diseases and can detect them quickly if they occur that underpins Australia’s reputation for excellent biosecurity and our access to global markets.
Broome private vet Dave Morrell said the masterclass was a great opportunity to get vets from all over northern Australia in one place and to learn more about animal health surveillance in the region.
“Bringing northern vets together to engage with a common purpose and approach to the threat of disease introductions into northern Australia via this workshop has made a substantial contribution to the delivery of biosecurity and surveillance across northern Australia,” Dr Morrell said.
“The vets particularly benefited from the epidemiological session, which provided investigative and analytical approaches that many of us were not familiar with. These approaches will be vital in the event of a serious animal disease outbreak in northern Australia.”
The Northern Australia Biosecurity Surveillance (NABS) Framework was established by the Commonwealth Government in 2016 to ensure effective and sustainable surveillance systems for priority plant and animal diseases. The Masterclass was coordinated by DPIRD in Western Australia and funded by Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments.
More information about African swine fever is available at agric.wa.gov.au/asf.