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Practical aspects

Generally, once a government authority has been notified of the suspected EAD case, the private veterinarian has fulfilled their responsibility and the government veterinarian will take over investigation of the case and advising the owner of the affected animals. However, it is worth understanding the processes that follow a report, as you may be asked to assist.

Quarantining a property

Photo: Simon Firestone, University of Melbourne

Individual premises on which an EAD is either known or suspected may be placed under quarantine by a person authorised under legislation. A notice will be served limiting access or egress of specified animals, persons or things. It is a criminal offence to move specified animals, persons or things on and off a quarantined property without a movement permit. A permit is a legal document that describes the animal(s), commodities or things to be moved, the origin and destination, and the conditions to be met for the movement. Private veterinarians do not have the authority to quarantine a property. They should contact the EAD hotline if they suspect quarantining of a property is required.

Once a quarantine notice is served by a government authority, government veterinarians will advise the premises owner on recommended controls that apply to any movement off a premises, whether on foot or by vehicle. The private veterinarian may assist in explaining that the aim of movement controls is to reduce the spread of disease by preventing the movement of at-risk animals or goods, and by only allowing movements that pose a minimal risk. Further information about quarantine requirements for each EAD can be found in the AUSVETPLAN disease-specific manuals.

Biosecurity and Personal Protective Equipment

Photo: Mark Stevenson

Inadequate biosecurity procedures can lead to further spread of infection. This risk is particularly important when a highly contagious EAD that can be spread via fomites is suspected, such as foot-and-mouth disease, African swine fever, equine influenza, avian influenza, Newcastle disease, or transmissible gastroenteritis. In addition, some EADs are also zoonotic and present health risks to veterinarians, animal owners and others handling infected animals, products, or fomites.

It is important that response personnel are aware of the measures required to minimise biosecurity and public health risks. All people who may come into contact with the disease agent must have access to, and use, appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Resources on appropriate use of PPE are included in the equine module.

Some key points are:

  • PPE may include masks/respirators, protective eye wear, overalls, gloves and boots
  • the level of PPE (especially respirators and goggles) should be matched to the hazard

The veterinarian who reports the suspect EAD may assist in providing advice to the person in charge of the animal(s) on precautions that need to be taken to prevent infection spread. Advice should be tailored to the suspected EAD, but generally should include advice on:

  • managing contact between potential infected animal(s) and other animals and people on property
  • use of appropriate PPE
  • monitoring other animals for signs of disease, and what should be done if signs occur
  • monitoring human health, and what should be done if human health deteriorates

Sample Collection, Packaging and Transport

The specimens required to diagnose a particular EAD can be found in AUSVETPLAN disease-specific documents and the Blue Book (Emergency Animal Diseases: a field guide for Australian veterinarians). Consult the government veterinarian, and if necessary the receiving laboratory, before collecting and submitting samples.

Samples need to be correctly identified and associated submission forms and paper work completed with careful attention to detail. Field veterinarians should include all details pertaining to the history, clinical signs, and clinical exam and postmortem findings. This information will better enable laboratory staff to interpret results and suggest additional testing, as appropriate.

Details on the collection, documentation, transport and handling of specimens can also be found in the Nationally Agreed Standard Operating Procedure Collecting emergency animal disease samples for laboratory testing (PDF).

A practical guide for the collection and packaging of samples for submission can be found here. You can also get advice from your state/territory diagnostic laboratory by contacting them directly. A list of state laboratory contacts are provided: WA, VIC, NSW, SA, NT, QLD, TAS.