Oral Presentation 64th International Conference of the Wildlife Disease Association 2015

Emerging infectious diseases of Australian wildlife: Lessons learnt and forgotten (#54)

Richard Speare 1
  1. Tropical Health Solutions Pty Ltd, Idalia, QLD , Australia

Although the concept of emerging infectious diseases (EID) when it was proposed had a human-centric focus, the importance of pathogens spilling over to humans from wildlife was highlighted as a critical issue: classic One Health. Australia has experienced a range of wildlife EID and led the world in researching and managing some, notably amphibian chytridiomycosis and henipaviruses. In the 1970s, wildlife disease was largely ignored except by a few dedicated individuals. Epidemics came and went in Australian wildlife, largely unrecorded since there was no formal surveillance system and limited resources to investigate them. Dedicated employment to research wildlife diseases subsequently resulted in understanding several wildlife EID, including mucormycosis in amphibians and platypus, amphibian chytridiomycosis, Hendra virus (HeV), Australian bat lyssavirus (ABLV), pilchard herpes virus, streptococcal disease in grouper, and pigeon paramyxovirus. HeV and ABLV had significant human health implications. The wildlife surveillance system run by Wildlife Health Australia has become increasingly efficient.
Key lessons learnt (among many) were: Champions help but dedicated employment on wildlife disease is essential for significant advances; Centres and groups with expertise in particular pathogens or diseases of specific wildlife taxa are similarly essential; Researchers working collaboratively with wildlife managers is productive and mutually beneficial.
Unfortunately, some of these lessons have been forgotten as centres for wildlife EID research have been defunded in whole or part at national and state levels. Wildlife EID demand rapid detection, investigation and control. Lack of expertise at any point along the chain results in slow responses and suboptimal outcomes.