The federal government has unveiled a major new investment in the risks posed by emerging animal diseases that could cause future pandemics in light of COVID-19.
Australia is on track to become a world leader in preventing future pandemics with a new multi-million dollar federal investment in the early detection and mitigation of emerging animal diseases.
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud on Monday unveiled the program that will see $ 8.4 million invested over the next four years targeting diseases arising from the human-animal-environment “interface” that could potentially degenerate into future pandemics.
This reflects the increased awareness of the risk posed by animal diseases due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Littleproud said.
“COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of recognizing and managing the risks of emerging zoonotic diseases that can originate from wildlife,” he said.
“This program positions Australia as a world leader in the global transformative change agenda aimed at preventing future disease risks emerging from the human-animal-environment interface.”
Almost all of the major exotic livestock diseases pose a potential risk to Australia, with around 1.7 million viruses unknown in mammalian and bird hosts.
The program will be implemented in partnership with the federal government and Wildlife Health Australia (WHA) and will see the creation of a One Health Investigation fund administered by the WHA that will strengthen support for field, laboratory and epidemiological investigations of events. specific diseases of wildlife. .
Littleproud touted the “true One Health approach” to recognize the “interdependencies of human, animal and environmental health” which he said were “essential” to prevent further pandemics.
Environment Minister Sussan Ley also highlighted the importance of the program in addressing global health issues by examining the common environment of humans and animals.
“The health of our environment is a precursor to human and animal health,” she said.
“This funding will prioritize the investigation of significant wildlife disease events to identify underlying causes and determine their relevance to human, livestock / domestic animal health and the environment.”
The relevance of animal diseases to global health in light of the COVID-19 pandemic was supported by Health Minister Greg Hunt, who said the world was “undergoing a transformative change aimed at preventing future pandemics that constitute an ever-present risk ”.
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“Strengthening Australia’s national surveillance at the human-livestock-wildlife interface will not only provide early warning of emerging disease risks in Australia, but will put us in a good position to influence global reform in the same direction.” . “
CSIRO’s Australian Center for Disease Preparedness will also be a key partner in the implementation of the program.