Human health

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources performs human health functions on behalf of the Department of Health at Australia’s international air and sea ports.

All incoming travellers (including crew) are provided with an Incoming Passenger Card (IPC) on route or on arrival into Australia. All travellers must complete this card which will be collected on arrival.

Aircraft or vessel operators – reporting ill travellers

The Biosecurity Act 2015 requires that the operator of an international aircraft or vessel must report any ill travellers (including crew) that show signs and symptoms of infectious disease or if there has been a death on board. The report must be made to a biosecurity officer prior to arrival in Australia.

Crew are not required to ask travellers if they are suffering from an infectious disease, however if someone is noticeably ill, it must be reported to the department. If there is any doubt whether an ill person needs to be reported, contact a biosecurity officer.

A biosecurity officer must be informed if a person on board has any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever or suspected fever
  • jaundice
  • a new rash
  • unusual bleeding
  • a new coughing illness
  • any illness that requires prompt medical assistance

For more information see the Reporting an illness or death fact sheet

The operator of the aircraft or vessel is also required to broadcast the mandatory passenger announcement on all international aircraft or cruise vessels prior to arrival in Australia, which must not to be edited.

Yellow Fever

If you are travelling to Africa, the Caribbean, Central or South America, you should be aware of the risk of yellow fever virus transmission and take the necessary precautions to protect yourself from infection. It is strongly recommended that all travellers planning to visit a yellow fever risk country be vaccinated for yellow fever.

On arrival in Australia, individuals who have stayed overnight or longer in a yellow fever risk country within the last 6 days will be asked to declare this on their IPC and show an International Certificate of Vaccination against yellow fever.

Individuals arriving in Australia from a yellow fever risk country that do not hold a vaccination certificate will still be permitted to enter Australia without one. On arrival in Australia, biosecurity officers will reinforce the seriousness of the disease and provide the individual with a Yellow Fever Action Card. The card provides instructions on what to do if the individual develops any signs or symptoms of yellow fever. For more information see Yellow Fever.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is a disease caused by a new virus that can cause a rapid onset of severe respiratory disease in people. Most severe cases have occurred in people with underlying conditions that may make them more likely to get respiratory infections.

All cases have lived in or travelled to the Middle East, or have had close contact with people who acquired the infection in the Middle East. There have been no cases in Australia.

Travellers who become unwell whilst travelling in the Middle East should see a doctor or go to the local emergency department, and not wait until arrival in Australia.

Travellers who have been to the Middle East within the past 14 days, or who have had contact with someone who may have had MERS-CoV and get a fever, cough, shortness of breath, or are worried, should see a doctor or go to the emergency department. It is important to advise the receptionist or nurse on arrival that you have visited the Middle East or have had contact with someone who may have had MERS-CoV.

Zika virus

Zika virus is spread by the bite of a mosquito that is carrying the virus. Not all types of mosquitoes can spread the Zika virus. It is spread mostly by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, but also possibly Aedes albopictus. Both are daytime biting mosquitoes, with increased activity around sunrise and sunset.

Most areas of Australia (excluding parts of Queensland) do not have the mosquitoes that can carry the virus and hence there is no risk of Zika virus being spread by mosquitoes. The Aedes aegypti mosquito is currently found in parts of Northern, Central and Southwest Queensland, while the Aedes albopictus mosquito is found in the Torres Strait Islands. Currently, all cases of Zika virus diagnosed in Australia were caught overseas.

The department continues to apply, monitor and enforce measures at ports and airports to prevent mosquitoes that can transmit Zika virus from entering and establishing in new areas of Australia.

For further information on Zika and the list of Zika virus affected countries refer to the Department of Health website.

Human remains

There are no restrictions or requirements regarding the importation of human ashes into Australia. No import permit, death certificate or cremation certificate is required.

The only requirement relates to the container (urn). Containers must be free from biosecurity risk material such as soil, and containers made from wood will need to be declared on the IPC (Question 7) to be inspected by a Biosecurity Officer. Containers made from materials such as iron, zinc, copper, bronze or plastic are not of biosecurity concern and you are not required to declare these containers on arrival.

The bringing in of human remains (excluding ashes) into Australia is not prohibited provided specific requirements are met. For example, human remains for burial or cremation can be brought into Australia if they meet one of the following requirements:

  • they are accompanied by an official copy of an official certificate or official extract from an entry in an official register, in which the cause of death is specified (an example of this would be a death certificate), or
  • they are accompanied by a certificate from a medical practitioner which states the cause of death (an example of this would be a letter from a hospital, signed by a doctor), or
  • with the permission of a Commonwealth Human Biosecurity Officer.

Further information relating to the importation of human remains can be found on the department’s Biosecurity Import Conditions Database.

Compliance

Under Australian law there are tough penalties for providing false information to biosecurity officers. These penalties will be enforced against any person who does not accurately disclose their recent travel history as required on the IPC.

In-flight health messages and airport signage will emphasise to travellers the importance of making truthful declarations.

Useful information

Contacts for further information

Human health issues
Department of Health
MDP 27, GPO Box 9848
Canberra ACT 2601
+61 2 6289 8638

Human biosecurity requirements at Australian international air and sea ports Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
GPO Box 858
Canberra ACT 2601

Airports
Phone: +61 2 6272 4143

Seaports
Phone: +61 2 6272 5557 ​