Antibodies to filovirus discovered in Australian bat species - 17 August 2022

Tests undertaken by CSIRO researchers on blood samples taken over several years from Australian bats have indicated that some bats have an immune response to a filovirus.

Some filoviruses found overseas can cause disease including fever and bleeding.

The blood samples were collected from bats at eight sites between 2005 and 2017. Further analysis by CSIRO researchers found antibodies to filoviruses in some of the samples, which means the bats had been exposed to an unknown filovirus at some point in their lives.

These findings are consistent with results in other countries including Singapore, India, China, the Philippines, Trinidad and Bangladesh, where filovirus antibodies had been found in bats, but with no reports of filovirus associated disease in people.

A small number of the Australian bat samples showed antibodies that reacted to two filoviruses, known as Ebola and Reston, however, as the antibody testing is not very specific, it’s likely that another unknown filovirus is present.

The CSIRO researchers advised that more research was needed to better understand filoviruses in bats in Australia, and that it is too early to know if the virus could be a risk to humans or other animals.

The CSIRO’s Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness (ACDP) undertakes real-time surveillance to increase knowledge and national response capabilities to support disease preparedness.

Bats are a critical part of the Australian environment. Flying-foxes pollinate native trees and plants and spread their seeds. Without bats, Australia wouldn’t have its eucalypt forests, rainforests and melaleucas. Smaller microbats eat insects, helping to control pest numbers. All Australian bat species are protected, and a number of flying-fox and microbat species are also listed as threatened.

As with all wildlife, bats should not be handled by members of the public, and sick or injured bats should be reported a wildlife care organisation or vet.

Australia recognises the importance of wildlife health. Wildlife Health Australia is its peak body and coordinates widespread networks of national, state, territory and local wildlife experts to undertake detailed surveillance of the state of health of Australia’s wildlife.

The Journal of General Virology https://www.microbiologyresearch.org/content/journal/jgv
For enquiries to CSIRO: Sian Stringer | 0459 890 423 | sian.stringer@csiro.a

wildlife health australia linking global networks of wildlife experts - 11 july 2022

Wildlife Health Australia (WHA) is currently expanding its roles in One Health by exploring opportunities to work more closely with wildlife health professionals in the Indo-Pacific.

‘One Health’ is a global approach that recognises that the health of humans, animals and the environment are fundamentally linked for survival.

In June and July, WHA are co-running some workshops to help promote global sharing of knowledge and techniques, in line with both the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) wildlife health framework, and WHA’s WILDplan strategic plan.

Workshop facilitator Steve Unwin said, “We are working with key organisations and networks in Africa and also in South-East Asia to promote ground-up, practitioner engagement, to complement Government and WOAH capacity-building programs. These workshops do not stand alone; they are part of ongoing capability programs operating since 2003 in Africa and 2009 SE Asia.”

Workshop details:
 
Workshop 1
20 – 26 June, 2022. Improving tuberculosis surveillance and diagnostics at the Human-Wildlife Interface.
Location: Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya
Partners: Arcus Foundation, University of Minnesota, Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA), Orangutan Veterinary Advisory Group (OVAG), Kenyan Wildlife Service.
 
Workshop 2
19 – 26 July, 2022. Orangutan Veterinary Advisory Group annual workshop.
Location: Gadjah Mada University (UGM), Indonesia
Partners: OVAG, Orangutan Conservancy, UGM, Chester Zoo and over 20 conservation NGO’s working with orangutans, gibbons and other wildlife of the region.
 
A team of young Indonesian and Malaysian vets will be joining the workshop in Kenya, with the aim of creating a global community of practice that can be disseminated regionally. Using a ‘train-the-trainer’ approach, subject matter experts will mentor participants to develop their own training capabilities, ensuring that global knowledge and insights are shared.

Steve said, “Our experiences over the last 15 years of listening to the wildlife community and providing a trusted networking service in Australia is continued here to link regional groups of wildlife experts into a global network and knowledge forum. Information and experience at the cutting edge of wildlife care and management are able to be accessed and utilised by global colleagues and partners.

“Being able to bring these different groups together has been enormously satisfying and successful for the betterment of wildlife globally.”

Antimicrobial resistance and Australian wildlife - 18 November 2021

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a global emerging issue for wildlife and ecosystem health, and Wildlife Health Australia is highlighting that the administration of antimicrobial medications to wildlife requires careful supervision by veterinarians.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared AMR as one of the top ten global public health threats facing humanity, and November 18 to 24 is World Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2021, with this year’s theme; ‘Spread Awareness, Stop Resistance’.

“The impact of AMR in wildlife is likely to increase in importance as alterations in land use, climate change, animal movements and human activities bring wildlife, livestock and people into closer contact,” said Wildlife Health Australia Chief Executive Officer Dr Rupert Woods.

Wallaby with joey. Image courtesy of Rick Stevens.

Antimicrobial Resistance and Australian Wildlife Media Release

  

“Veterinarians and all of those involved in the care and rehabilitation of Australian wildlife should be vigilant to prevent AMR. Treatment of wildlife with veterinary medicines, including the administration of antimicrobials, should be carefully supervised by veterinarians. Antimicrobial stewardship should be practiced when treating and managing all wildlife species.”

The presence and significance of AMR in wildlife and the environment of Australia requires ongoing research and data collection. Stopping AMR requires a One Health approach, considering both human and animal health, along with our shared environment, with coordinated action across all sectors where antimicrobials are used.

“Not all sick animals need antimicrobials – these medicines should only be used under veterinary supervision. It’s important that everyone involved in the care of wildlife species, incorporates best practice biosecurity and hygiene measures to reduce the need for antimicrobial use,” said Dr Woods.

During World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, Wildlife Health Australia is spreading the word that AMR could impact the health of both people and animals, so we all have a role to play in stopping AMR.

Fast Facts

  • Wildlife Health Australia (WHA) is the peak coordinating body for wildlife health in Australia.
  • Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death.
  • For more information about antimicrobial resistance and Australian wildlife, read our fact sheet.

 


PEAK BODY FOR WILDLIFE HEALTH JOINS CALLS TO ‘HEAL COUNTRY!’ DURING NAIDOC WEEK - 4 JUNE 2021

Australia’s peak body protecting the health of native wildlife - Wildlife Health Australia is poised to celebrate NAIDOC week from 4 -11 July by respectfully embracing this year’s theme of Heal Country, heal our nation.
 
NAIDOC Week’s rally to ‘Heal Country!’ calls for stronger measures to recognise, protect, and maintain all aspects of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and heritage.
 
Wildlife Health Australia is currently reimagining the breadth of its endeavours for Australian wildlife and has recently committed to working collaboratively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and individuals to draw on tens of thousands of years of their knowledge, wisdom and insights in caring for Country.
 
The focus on partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples includes enhanced surveillance of the health of Australia’s precious wildlife, and support and care for the recovery of vital ecosystems.
 
In the spirit of the theme ‘Heal Country!’, Wildlife Health Australia has recently reported to the Australian government on recommendations for emergency preparedness for wildlife in times of bushfires, undertaken improved surveillance of wildlife health across Australia and the Antarctic, and enhanced biosecurity measures to protect against introduced diseases.
 
Wildlife Health Australia CEO Dr Rupert Woods has encouraged all its members and partner organisations to join in this year’s NAIDOC Week events and consider and participate in specific activities that directly contribute to Heal Country!
 
Wildlife Health Australia pays its respect to the aims of this year’s NAIDOC week:
 
Healing Country means embracing First Nation’s cultural knowledge and understanding of Country as part of Australia's national heritage. That the culture and values of Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders are respected equally to and the cultures and values of all Australians (NAIDOC Week website).


World Environment Day 5 June 2021 - a Call to Action - 4 JUNE 2021

This World Environment Day (June 5) Wildlife Health Australia is issuing an invitation and challenge to our members, stakeholders and all Australians to get active and take up our role as Generation Restoration to prevent and reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide.

Wildlife Health Australia’s CEO Dr Rupert Woods said:

“In Australia, maintaining viable habitat for our wildlife is absolutely critical. 80% of our wildlife is found nowhere else on earth. We are the custodians of many of the rarest and most precious wildlife ever seen.

“And it’s never been more important to acknowledge that animal health and human health are absolutely interdependent and bound to the health of the ecosystems in which we all live. By understanding this vital link, we can track the health of our wildlife wherever they are found and help ensure their management and management of the environments in which they live for the benefit of all of us.”

The message for the UN’s World Environment Day on June 5 is:

“This is our moment. We cannot turn back time. But we can grow trees, green our cities, rewild our gardens, change our diets and clean up rivers and coasts. We are the generation that can make peace with nature. Let’s get active, not anxious. Let’s be bold, not timid. 
Join #GenerationRestoration.”

Links: 
World Environment Day
OIE One Health
 
Wildlife Health Australia
Donate to WHA
Join WHA


Join Wildlife Health Australia to celebrate the World Wildlife Day - 3 March 2021

Wildlife Health Australia invites you to celebrate the UN’s World Wildlife Day tomorrow, focussing on the central role of forests, forest species and ecosystems to support forest communities and conserve forest wildlife.

Australia’s biodiversity and the natural systems it supports are integral to protecting our unique and threatened species, as well as our way of life and our food and agriculture sectors. But they are also under increasing pressure. Monitoring and managing wildlife health are essential parts of maintaining a healthy environment – for example flying foxes are key forest pollinators as they fly from tree to tree and forest to forest in search of food and roosts.

Southern cassowaries live in rainforests of north-east Australia, New Guinea and nearby smaller islands. Image courtesy of Rick Stevens.

  

An ongoing challenge for Australia is how to monitor wildlife health and disease; integrate information gathered with existing knowledge of health and disease dynamics in wildlife, domestic animals, humans and ecosystems; and use this knowledge to guide the decisions and actions of governments, businesses and communities impacted by wildlife and ecosystem health.

Wildlife Health Australia is working with government and non-government stakeholders in Australia and overseas to help support and build our national wildlife health system (see HERE).

In 2021, Wildlife Health Australia is directly supporting global efforts that underpin the critical nature of wildlife in sustaining a healthy environment. Dr Tiggy Grillo, Wildlife Health Australia’s National Coordinator, is Australia’s World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Focal Point for Wildlife. Dr Grillo provides support for Australia’s OIE Delegate and Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Mark Schipp, and links Australia into global wildlife health networks, including the activities of the OIE and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. International collaborations are maintained via regular communication with the United States Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center, Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative, as well as many others via participation in an international working group on national wildlife health programs.

More than ever the world is aware that wildlife health matters. Join and support Wildlife Health Australia in 2021 to help protect Australia, and the world’s, unique and precious wildlife. Healthy wildlife: healthy Australia.

Donate to WHA
Join WHA

The agenda for the UN’s World Wildlife Day virtual events 2021 is here:
#DoOneThingToday to support forest communities and conserve forest wildlife.


How is Australia impacted by the recent increase in Detections of Avian Influenza in the Northern Hemisphere? - 24 february 2021

Avian influenza virus (AIV) infection can cause severe disease in poultry and can also infect and cause disease in a range of other species including wild birds and humans. There are two categories of AIVs: low pathogenicity and high pathogenicity.
 
The main natural reservoirs for low pathogenicity strains of AIV are wild waterfowl and to a lesser extent, shorebirds, with infection typically resulting in only mild or no clinical signs of disease in these birds. Whilst a rare occurrence, low pathogenicity strains of AIV can spill over from wild bird populations into poultry where they can then mutate into high pathogenicity viruses leading to severe disease and high mortality.
 
Data generated by the National Avian Influenza Wild Bird Surveillance (NAIWB) program, which screens samples from wild birds for AIVs, is used to monitor and understand avian influenza in wild birds in Australia. Over the life of the 17-year program, thousands of wild bird samples have been screened with no high pathogenicity AIVs found in our wild birds.
 
The high pathogenicity avian influenza virus strains (goose/Guandong HPAI H5Nx virus clade 2.3.4.4) currently circulating in the northern hemisphere originally emerged in 2014 and has spread with wild birds from Asia to Europe, Africa, and North America. 
 
Unlike other strains, these virus strains have been detected in apparently healthy wild birds, likely facilitating their rapid intercontinental spread through bird migration.
 
To date, Australia remains free from these strains of viruses currently being detected in the northern hemisphere. Studies to date have found no evidence that migratory birds are carrying infectious high pathogenicity viruses when they arrive in Australia. Analysis of recent outbreaks of AIV in poultry in Victoria were found to be strains closely related to those circulating in Australian wild birds, and not imported avian influenza virus strains from Asia or elsewhere.
 
However, the current widespread and frequent detection of high pathogenicity AIVs in the northern hemisphere, notably Europe and Asia, likely means an increased level of risk to Australia, though previous research has assessed the overall risk of introduction of high pathogenicity AIVs to Australia to be low. 
 
Increased awareness and vigilance by Australian poultry producers and wildlife health professionals is advised. There is a need to remain vigilant by:

  • maintaining best biosecurity practices by poultry producers and wildlife professionals
  • investigating unusual and mass bird (domestic and wild bird) sickness and/or deaths
  • reporting any such events: https://www.outbreak.gov.au/report-outbreak
  • continuing monitor AIV strains circulating in apparently healthy Australian wild birds for overseas strains through the NAIWB program.  
  • reporting any unusual signs of disease or deaths in wildlife to: Your State/Territory Wildlife Health Australia (WHA) Coordinator, or the 24-hour Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on freecall 1800 675 888.

 
Further technical information: 

 

First ever national guidelines for managing wildlife diseases released - Dec 2020

If you work with our native wildlife, then make sure you get your claws on the first ever National Guidelines for Management of Disease in Free-ranging Australian Wildlife. Disease can have huge impacts on our unique wildlife.

Determining what to do when a disease affects large numbers of wildlife, like mange in wombats or chytrid fungus in frogs, can be challenging.

The new guidelines developed by Wildlife Health Australia will help everyone from decision-makers to staff in the field, understand the options for managing disease in wildlife populations.

Written in consultation with experienced disease managers and ecologists, the guidelines draw together existing approaches and outline considerations for choosing the approach that is right for your situation.
 


Getting Involved

Want to get involved, Become a Member.

Seen something unusual, Report an incident.

What to do if you find sick, injured or dead wildlife.

Find out more from WHA Fact Sheets.