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Trop. Med. Infect. Dis. 2019, 4(1), 29; https://doi.org/10.3390/tropicalmed4010029
2. Australia’s Biosecurity System and Wildlife Health Systems
3. Australia’s Role in the Linkage and Coordination between Human and Animal Health Nationally and Internationally
4. Key Challenges and Opportunities Identified from the Australian Experience
- Improve Australia’s ability to describe the occurrence and distribution of wildlife diseases.
- Allow early detection of unusual wildlife disease events including changes in the pattern of existing diseases and occurrence of emerging or exotic diseases.
- Provide basic data that is able to support more detailed ad hoc disease investigations.
- Provide data to support claims of freedom from specified diseases and answer queries from trading partners as requested.
- Identify and capture all sources of animal health information that would effectively contribute to Australia’s overall understanding of its wildlife health.
- Remain highly cost effective and maximise the representativeness and coverage of the system.
- Improve and expand the capacity to collect information about feral animals, especially from non-government sources.
- Development of an all-hazards health protection framework. The national framework for communicable disease control could be further developed with an increased emphasis on the risks posed by anthropogenic changes to the environment, which are linked to disease emergence in wildlife, changes in relative distribution and composition of infectious agents and species affected.
- Public and animal health workforce issues. Some specific competencies were recognized for which there is a limited workforce and future replacement may be at risk. For wildlife, this includes disease ecologists and disease and wildlife emergency response managers. Australia’s PVS evaluation noted that in several jurisdictions staff levels are seen to be severely inadequate . Increased investment in on-the-ground veterinary officer deployment for investigation and surveillance activities is required. Only some of Australia’s environmental agencies include veterinarians and a placement within each of these agencies would also facilitate communication and linkage with counterparts in agriculture and public health agencies.
- The use of genomic data in disease surveillance, which could be better harnessed for pathogen discovery, surveillance work and elucidating the epidemiology at population interfaces, for example, at the wildlife–human and wildlife–livestock interfaces. A sequence data management and interpretation framework bridging bio-informatics and evolutionary microbiology (phylogenetics, phylogeography) is of critical importance in comprehensively holistic programs, particularly to provide an adequate ecological and evolutionary interpretation of the relationships between agents discovered in wildlife and zoonotic agents affecting human populations. All of this has the ultimate purpose of tracing the potential origins of zoonotic diseases, unveiling mechanisms as to how wildlife-associated agents may break cross species transmission barriers (host shifts) or simply quantifying and qualifying transient cross-species spillover infections. The European COMPARE project is an example of an effective approach to tackling emerging infectious diseases, ranging from risk assessment, sampling frames and surveillance, application of new generation sequencing, and data flow into databases, to the development of harmonized approaches across human, livestock and wildlife populations .
- Joint training and emergency animal disease response exercises across Australian Government agencies, relevant state and territory government agencies, and wildlife stakeholders, along with strategic risk assessment of current preparedness activities and arrangements for wildlife, would help to identify areas requiring improvement.
- Wildlife monitoring also presents an opportunity to assist with linkage across sectors in the areas of surveillance, preparedness and investigation. However, simpler management structures are required and the use of WHA, a public-private partnership built on One Health principles, to assist as a “trusted broker” represents a potential opportunity for the system that needs to be further developed.
- Information technology and mapping systems between Australian jurisdictions are not yet fully compatible . Linkage of jurisdictional information systems to the eWHIS would remove redundancy, improve efficiency and allow analysis at a whole of country scale.
- “Introduce a formal process through committee structures between human health and animal health to regularly review a joint list of priority zoonotic diseases. Consider designating zoonotic diseases of public health importance in Australia as nationally notifiable in animals.
- Establish a dedicated multisectoral national zoonosis committee or ensure reciprocal animal and human sector representation on their respective national zoonotic disease-related committees to enhance communications, bridge knowledge gaps and strengthen collaborative responses.
- Consider standardising/aligning laboratory case definitions and typing between human and animal health sectors to enhance data comparison of their surveillance systems ”.
Conflicts of Interest
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