Wildlife Health Australia • Quarterly Update - December 2016

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In this issue

- Getting animated at the annual general meeting
- White-nose syndrome workshop
- Facts online
- Barry Munday Award for Tiggy
- Bringing the surveillance network together
- A better database
- Sharing with US colleagues
- Boosting skills in epidemiology
- Welcome Debbie, and congratulations Karen


Getting animated at the annual general meeting

Wildlife Health Australia’s Management Committee member and invited speaker, Andrew Peters, gave a provocative talk on Australia’s response to psittacine beak and feather disease in endangered parrots at the recent WHA annual general meeting.

Andrew argued that a ‘triage approach’ should be applied by Australia, so that resources are directed towards helping species that have a reasonable prospect of population recovery.  He also predicted that successful interventions in the future will bring together many fields of expertise.

‘’A broad view of health, going beyond disease presence or absence is also needed,’’ he said.

The AGM also featured the launch of a new three-minute animated video about Wildlife Health Australia. The video was produced by Mari Adams, a Melbourne-based artist, illustrator and animator, and is available here.

 “It is a great introduction to Wildlife Health Australia and I’d encourage all our members to have a look, and share it with colleagues. We would also value your comments and feedback,” said WHA CEO Rupert Woods.

Management Committee Chair Mark Schipp announced the results of the recent management committee elections.

The WHA Management Committee now comprises:

  • Mark Schipp, Australian Chief Veterinary Officer (Chair), representing the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources 

  • Charles Milne, Chief Veterinary Officer Victoria, representing Animal Health Committee 

  • Hume Field (Deputy Chair), representing the Individual Member

And organisational members:

  • Pam Whiteley representing Wildlife Health Surveillance Victoria

  • Andrew Peters representing Wildlife Disease Association Australasia and

  • Chris Bunn, representing the Australian Veterinary Conservation Biologists.

Chris Bunn will commence his management committee duties from January 1 2016.

Chris Hibbard, representing the Zoo and Aquarium Association as an organisational member on the committee, was not re-elected at the 2016 AGM. Mark Schipp thanked Chris for his efforts and contribution to WHA during his three-year stint on the committee.

Pictured above: An image from the new three-minute video about Wildlife Health Australia.

White-nose syndrome workshop

Wildlife Health Australia and Animal Health Australia ran a workshop in October to discuss response options for a possible incursion of the exotic disease white-nose syndrome into bats in Australia.

WHA’s Keren Cox-Witton explained that white-nose syndrome is a fungal disease of insectivorous bats that has caused massive mortalities - estimated at over 5.7 million bats - in North America. White-nose syndrome has not been identified in Australia.

White-nose syndrome is spread mainly from bat-to-bat, but people can also spread the disease between caves, as the fungus can be carried on boots or equipment.

The workshop was part of a project coordinated by WHA and funded by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources to better prepare Australia for a possible incursion of white-nose syndrome.

Details of the workshop are available here.

To find out more about white-nose syndrome, see the WHA factsheet.

Pictured: The endangered southern bent-wing bat, one of Australia's native bat species that would be at risk from an incursion of white nose-syndrome. Photo courtesy of Terry Reardon.

Facts online

New topics, major updates and a new look have refreshed Wildlife Health Australia’s popular fact sheet collection.

Wildlife Health Australia’s Andrea Reiss says the web-based information resource now covers over 120 diseases and health topics including white-nose syndrome in bats, Hendra virus, chytrid fungus in frogs and chlamydia in koalas.

New fact sheets include:

  • Pentastomiasis in Australian lizards

  • Eastern equine encephalitis virus (exotic)

  • Chikungunya fever (exotic)

  • Pentastomiasis in Australian crocodiles

  • Brucella suis and feral pigs

  • Anthrax in Australian wildlife

  • Pasteurellosis in Australian waterbirds

  • Avian paramyxovirus

  • Borrelia and Australian wildlife

  • Rift Valley fever (exotic)

Andrea said the review of the fact sheets has highlighted the huge progress Australia has made in better understanding wildlife health and disease in the past ten years.

“As a nation we still have a huge amount to learn,” she added. “There remain vast gaps in our understanding of our incredibly diverse wildlife and their health issues.”

Andrea thanked WHA members and other experts who helped review and update the information. Access the fact sheets here.

Barry Munday Award for Tiggy

Wildlife Health Australia’s Tiggy Grillo has received the Barry Munday Award for services to wildlife health in Australia.

The Wildlife Diseases Association Australasian section (WDA-A) announced the award at their November conference, recognizing Tiggy as a central part of Australia’s wildlife health arrangements.

Andrew Peters, president of the WDA-A, said the assessing committee unanimously supported Tiggy's nomination.

"I'd personally like to recognise Tiggy for her energy, patience, thoroughness, integrity and exemplary interpersonal skills. I think the value of these attributes is clear in light of recent world events and the importance to the scientific community of communication and building relationships with diverse stakeholders couldn't be more obvious. Tiggy is an exemplary model for how this should be done," Andrew said.

Bringing the surveillance network together

Strengthening connections between the people who form Australia’s wildlife disease surveillance network was the aim of a meeting hosted by Wildlife Health Australia earlier in the year.

Wildlife surveillance coordinators from universities, zoos, sentinel veterinary clinics and government departments came together in Sydney, allowing many to meet colleagues face to face for the first time.

A hypothetical scenario concerning a disease outbreak in possums was used to focus discussion and explore regional and jurisdictional frameworks. Barriers to investigating wildlife disease events, and areas of synergy were also examined.

WHA’s Sam Gilchrist said participant feedback highlighted the value of the frank scientific discussion to benefit wildlife disease surveillance outcomes for Australia. He said based on the positive comments, WHA would look to host another meeting of the broader surveillance network in the future.


Pictured: The surveillance network meeting in action.

A better database

A recent upgrade to Wildlife Health Australia’s database will mean speedier data entry and report generation.

The national electronic Wildlife Health Information System (eWHIS) is a web-enabled, secure database capturing information relating to wildlife health surveillance and disease investigation in Australia.

“We wanted to make it as easy as possible for our coordinators in government agencies, vet clinics, zoos and universities to input data,” explained WHA’s Sam Gilchrist.

“The update has streamlined the generation of our regular reports from the database, such as Bat Stats,” he said.

The upgrade has also introduced the capacity to construct maps from eWHIS data.

“We have added a new location dataset that comes with background latitude and longitude details, allowing us to produce accurate maps of interesting cases,” Sam said.

Sharing with US colleagues

A three-week trip to the United States by Wildlife Health Australia’s Tiggy Grillo in July - August enabled a two-way sharing of information and insight.

WHA’s success in facilitating wildlife surveillance reporting from diverse stakeholders attracted a lot interest, according to Tiggy.

“Every time I gave a talk, somebody would ask a question about how we do what we do. I explained trust, respect and time are crucial to building up the relationships needed to enable reporting of wildlife disease events to government through our zoo, sentinel clinic and university networks,” she said.

During week one, Tiggy attended the International Wildlife Disease Association conference and contributed to a workshop on evidence-based design of national wildlife health programs. The workshop, co-organized by the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative and the USGS National Wildlife Health Center, brought together national wildlife health program leaders to discuss shared features and core competencies of national programs. Countries represented included: China, South Korea, Thailand, New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands, the UK, Canada and the USA, with an overview of South American programs as well. A brief summary of the workshop was presented at the European Wildlife Disease Association Network meeting in Berlin in August 2016.

During week two and three, Tiggy visited the USGS National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin, and whilst there presented at a two-day workshop on Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza.

Tiggy then went on to Fort Collins, Colorado, where she gave four seminars to the following groups: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USDA-APHIS-WS National Wildlife Research Center, wildlife veterinarians working for the National Wildlife Refuge System and National Park Service, and to students at Colorado State University.

Tiggy was very grateful for the hospitality provided by everyone and has continued to stay in contact with all the agencies.

Pictured: Wildlife Health Australia's Tiggy Grillo with Natalie Nguyen from the USGS National Wildlife Health Center.

Boosting skills in epidemiology

A course in wildlife epidemiology held earlier in the year has improved Australia’s capacity to detect the source and cause of infectious diseases.

Commissioned by Wildlife Health Australia and delivered by Evan Sergeant from private veterinary company, AusVet, the three-day course attracted 17 participants.

“Our aim was to provide participants with a better understanding of epidemiological principles and their application to wildlife populations, as well as a range of tools to assist in the investigation and improved understanding of diseases in wildlife,” explained WHA’s Andrea Reiss.

Along with the six WHA staff who attended, participants were drawn from universities, federal and state agriculture departments, private veterinary practice, a wildlife park and the Australia Registry of Wildlife Health.

Four attendees also benefited from a scholarship from WHA to cover their costs in attending the course.

Pictured: Attendees of the wildlife epidemiology course.

Welcome Debbie, and congratulations Karen

Debbie Kosh became part of the Wildlife Health Australia team in September, as the Administration Manager (on a maternity leave contract).

Debbie has a background in administration and human resources, and experience as an executive assistant within the private, government and non-profit sector. Debbie is also studying a Bachelor of Zoology part-time as she has a keen interest in the management and conservation of ecosystems, and a passion for protecting wildlife and the environment. Welcome Debbie!

Meanwhile Wildlife Health Australia’s Karen Magee and her partner Clint have welcomed baby boy, Beau. Congratulations Kaz!

Pictured: New Wildlife Health Australia team member, Debbie Kosh.

If you see any unusual signs of disease or deaths in wildlife please call the 24 hour Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888, call your local vet, or visit our website to access contact details for Wildlife Health Australia coordinators in each state
and territory. 

Wildlife Health Australia is the peak body for wildlife health
in Australia. 

If you see any suspicious signs of disease or deaths in wildlife you can report it to the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on freecall 1800 675 888.

Find out more at www.wildlifehealthaustralia.com.au
email: admin@wildlifehealthaustralia.com.au  or call +61 2 9960 6333

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