The Office of the Chief Veterinary Officer (OCVO) and the Animal Health Policy branch, in conjunction with other areas of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, are responsible for developing policy and providing scientific advice on animal health matters, including:
- veterinary aspects of control of zoonotic diseases (diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans)
- counterterrorism (where biological agents may be used for terrorist activities)
- contributing to veterinary public health monitoring and surveillance activities.
Australia is fortunate to be free of many of the serious zoonoses that are present in some other countries around the world. Studies show that a large proportion of new diseases that affect humans originated in animals. Significant effort is directed towards increasing knowledge about and addressing risks from emerging zoonoses, limiting the potential for entry of exotic zoonoses and contributing to strategies and programs to minimise human infection from endemic zoonotic diseases in Australia.
Zoonotic agents in Australia include:
- certain bacteria (eg. Brucella spp, Leptospira spp, Listeria spp, Salmonella spp, Campylobacter spp, E. coli and anthrax)
- viral diseases (eg. Hendra virus and Australian bat lyssavirus)
- parasites such as tapeworms, Toxoplasma spp and trematodes
- rickettsial diseases such as Q fever.
Zoonotic agents not present in Australia include:
Surveillance statistics on some of the more important zoonoses in Australia (including brucellosis, leptospirosis, listeriosis, ornithosis and Q fever) are collated by the Australian Government Department of Health and are also reported in the Animal Health Surveillance Quarterly Reports on the Animal Health Australia website.
Veterinary Public Health Monitoring and Surveillance Activities
The OCVO and Animal Health Policy branch are involved in multidisciplinary activities with the Australian Government Department of Health, and other organisations, involving preparedness, monitoring, surveillance and response for zoonotic diseases. These activities include:
- representation on the Communicable Diseases Network Australia, which oversees the coordination of human national communicable disease surveillance and responses to human communicable disease outbreaks of national importance
- joint development of a National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy through membership of the Antimicrobial Resistance Prevention and Containment Steering Group
- providing input and technical assistance to national animal health surveillance activities, including the National Animal Health Information System and the national animal health surveillance strategy.