Australia hosts meetings for world experts to join forces against avian, swine diseases

World-leading experts on infectious animal diseases are gathered in Australia for World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) meetings.

National science agency the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is hosting expert network meetings of the WOAH at its Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness (ACDP) this week.

Co-hosted with the federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, the meetings bring animal disease policymakers together with more than 50 leading international experts on avian and swine diseases.

Trevor Drew, director of the ACDP, said the meetings were particularly important ahead of an expected spike in avian influenza cases later this year.

“While Australia is currently free of highly pathogenic avian influenza and African swine fever, both pose significant risks to our poultry and pig industries respectively,” he said in a media release on Tuesday.

“By collaborating and sharing knowledge on these and other emerging pathogens with our neighbors, we can help improve the region’s preparedness against emerging infectious diseases and reduce the risk on our own shores.”

Meetings will take place over five days at the ACDP — the same facility where the CSIRO has conducted its SARS-CoV-2 research.

Attendees include Australia’s Chief Veterinary Officer Mark Schipp, who said Australia was proud to host for the first time.

Schipp said transboundary animal diseases such as African swine fever and avian influenza “know no borders”.

Along with strong national surveillance, biosecurity and preparedness measures, international collaboration is essential in preventing the emergence and spread of these diseases, and sharing global expertise, according to him.

“Over this five-day event, international experts from Asia and the Pacific will meet in person to share scientific information and discuss new diagnostic and vaccine technology around African swine fever and avian diseases,” he said.

“Progress in these fields will be essential to the regional control and prevention of these diseases.” ■

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