Media Release

Combating infectious diseases within our region

28 September 2014

Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, used World Rabies Day to highlight the important work undertaken in the region to keep rabies out of Australia.

“Rabies is present in more than 100 countries across the world. Australia is one of the few countries that claim freedom from this disease that affects humans and animals alike,” Minister Joyce said.

“Each year around the world, more than 50,000 people die from rabies. If established in Australia the disease could profoundly change our way of life, from the considerable toll on human and animal health to the potentially immense costs of eradication, or in a worst case scenario, management and vaccination.

“The work offshore, at our borders and on shore—including the department’s engagement with indigenous communities in Northern Australia as part of Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy— is vitally important to ensuring Australia maintains its freedom from rabies and other exotic diseases.

“We have a strong biosecurity system to reduce the risk of human, animal diseases and plant pests reaching our borders and good preparation to stamp them out in the unlikely event they make it here.”

Australia’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Mark Schipp, said the Department of Agriculture’s work to help maintain Australia’s rabies-free status extended to working in partnership with one of our nearest neighbours, Indonesia where it is present.

“Rabies is a disease that can be controlled and eradicated through vaccination. Preparedness and early management are critical to preventing its spread,” Dr Schipp said.

“We are doing our part here and in our region to improve early preparedness, detection, response and recovery options for rabies and other outbreak-prone diseases.

“Since 2011, the Department of Agriculture has been working in partnership with the Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture to improve the management of emerging infectious diseases.

“Through the Australia Indonesia Partnership for Emerging Infectious Diseases (AIP-EID) we are playing a direct and unique role in improving Indonesia’s animal health services and strengthening bilateral ties.”

The AIP-EID is funded by the Australian Government with $22 million allocated to developing a more integrated veterinary service capable of preventing, detecting and controlling important endemic and emerging infectious diseases.

For more information on rabies visit the department's website.