Veterinary Public Health

The OCVO, in conjunction with other areas of DAFF, is responsible for developing policy and providing scientific advice on animal health matters, including:

Zoonoses

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 gaining a greater understanding of and addressing risks from emerging zoonoses, limiting the potential for entry of exotic zoonoses and contributing to strategies and programs aimed at minimising 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, and
  • 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 Ageing and are also reported in the Animal Health Surveillance Quarterly Reports on the Animal Health Australia website.

Animal Biotechnology

Biotechnology is a controversial field with great potential for advancing animal agriculture, especially into the future. It is important however that any risks involved are suitably assessed, managed and communicated. Biotechnology applications involving animals incorporate a number of activities including:

  • genetically modified pastures and feeds
  • genetically modified veterinary pharmaceuticals
  • genomics and marker assisted selection
  • cloned animals, and
  • transgenic animals.

The OCVO works to address animal health and welfare aspects of such technologies to ensure that sound science contributes to policy developments in this often difficult area. The OCVO is involved in international fora where these issues are being addressed, such as the World Organisation for Animal Health and Codex Alimentarius as well as in the scoping of Australian policy as these technologies develop.

Further general information on biotechnology, including plant biotechnology, can be found on the department's Agriculture and Food Biotechnology webpage.

Veterinary Public Health Monitoring and Surveillance Activities

The OCVO is involved in multidisciplinary activities with the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing 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
  • progressing relevant outcomes and recommendations of the Review of Australia’s Rural Veterinary Services, specifically zoonoses surveillance and improving integration of animal and human health activity, and
  • 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.

DAFF actively supports the University of Sydney’s Veterinary Public Health Management program