Our dogged determination to keep Australia rabies-free
World Rabies Day, on 28 September, is a reminder for all Australians to do their part to ensure that Australia remains rabies-free.
Australia’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Mark Schipp, today said the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has strict biosecurity requirements for people bringing animals, including dogs, into Australia and undertakes proactive work to keep rabies out.
“It’s no fluke that Australia is one of the few countries able to claim freedom from rabies,” Dr Schipp said.
“Rabies affects humans and animals alike, with more than 59,000 people estimated to die every year from the disease, which is primarily transmitted by dog bites.
“If rabies became established in Australia, the toll on human and animal health would be huge and the cost of response and recovery, immense.
“As recent high profile cases have shown, we’ve got strict biosecurity requirements in place to protect Australia from pests and diseases such as rabies.
“Biosecurity risk has nothing to do with how well loved and cared for pets are, these processes are based on the best scientific evidence of how to minimise risk and keep exotic diseases out.
“Australians also have a role to play in keeping out rabies by seeking medical attention if they are bitten by an animal overseas.
“The department is also proactively working to safeguard Australia from exotic diseases, with work both on-shore and off-shore.
“The department is developing a strategy to reduce the risk of a rabies outbreak in Australia, to ensure there are appropriate systems and measures in place to mitigate the risk of rabies becoming established here.
“The department is funding research by the University of Sydney to inform this strategy, which investigate the different avenues that rabies could be spread here, and how we could best prepare for an outbreak.”
- work with Papua New Guinea’s quarantine staff to identify pathways and assess the risk of a rabies incursion in PNG and Northern Australia
- studying the contact between wild dogs (dingoes) and domestic dogs (including free-roaming dogs or ‘community dogs’) in remote northern Australian Indigenous communities
- recording dog (including wild dog) movements and quantifying human-mediated dog movements (e.g. pig hunting and holiday trips) in remote northern Australian Indigenous communities
- surveying dog owners in remote northern Australian Indigenous communities about vaccination and other rabies control methods.
“We are doing our part here to improve early preparedness, detection, response and recovery options for infectious diseases such as rabies,” Dr Schipp said.
“This includes engaging with Indigenous communities in Northern Australia, where wild dogs are prevalent, and work with our Indonesian counterparts to improve infectious diseases management.
“This year, the department also provided assistance to Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea to develop national rabies management plans, which determine how they will approach control and eradication of the disease.”
For more information on the department’s work to help manage the risk of rabies visit www.agriculture.gov.au/animal/health/rabies.