Wildlife Health Australia • Quarterly Update - March 2017

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In this issue

- Roadshow on emerging wildlife diseases
- New surveillance for avian paramyxoviruses
- Chris Bunn joins the Management Committee
- Wildlife workshop at AVA conference
- Funding for vets to investigate disease
- Member profile - Manda Page

Roadshow on emerging wildlife diseases

Veterinary pathologist Cheryl Sangster is presenting a series of two-day workshops around Australia on emerging diseases of wildlife. Cheryl will be drawing on her wealth of wildlife health and pathology experience which includes stints with the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative and Taronga Zoo.

Along with special guests, Cheryl will be sharing insights into what classifies a disease as emerging, and will use examples from around the world to illustrate mechanisms for disease emergence. Snake fungal disease, chytrid fungus disease in frogs, and Saiga antelope die-off will be covered during the first day of the workshops. Day two will explore recently identified emerging wildlife diseases in Australia and outline key items for a wildlife pathology tool kit.

The presentations will be made to veterinary pathologists and veterinarians in Sydney, Launceston, and Gatton during March, and in Darwin and Perth in April. WHA staff will be presenting at all events.

The workshops are presented by the Australian Animal Pathology Standards Program (AAPSP) and are proudly supported by Wildlife Health Australia.

The AAPSP is a joint initiative of the Australian Society for Veterinary Pathology, the Sub Committee on Animal Health Laboratory Standards, and Animal Health Australia. It aims to improve the diagnostic capability for Australia’s national animal health system. To find out more about AAPSP, visit the AHA website.

Pictured: Cheryl Sangster. 

New surveillance for avian paramyxoviruses

Australia will this year begin surveillance for avian paramyxoviruses in wild birds, with the expansion of the National Avian Influenza Wild Bird surveillance program.
Wildlife Health Australia's Tiggy Grillo is the national coordinator of the wild bird surveillance program. She explained that some strains of avian paramyxovirus can cause disease in poultry, cage and wild birds. Others strains do not cause disease and are widespread in Australian native water birds. Newcastle disease is the name used to describe disease caused by avian paramyxoviruses in poultry. 
“Samples collected for avian influenza surveillance will now also be tested for avian paramyxovirus, predominantly looking for avian paramyxoviruses serotype 1 (APMV-1) which includes strains known to potentially infect poultry,” Tiggy said. “Avian paramyxoviruses can mutate and possibly evolve to become more infective or harmful, so they are worth keeping an eye on.”
Tiggy said the surveillance will provide better information to assess and manage risks of avian paramyxovirus to poultry and wild birds. 

 “The surveillance will also help us maintain Australia’s laboratory diagnostic capacity, so that we are well prepared in the event of an outbreak of disease caused by these viruses. The latest APMV-1 virus isolates from wild birds in Australia can then be used as reference isolates for proficiency testing by the Laboratories for Emergency Animal Disease Diagnosis and Response network in Australia,” she said.

The national surveillance program is coordinated by Wildlife Health Australia with funding provided by the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.  The program also relies on in-kind contributions from a large number of collaborators including commonwealth, state and territory government agencies, non-government organisations, industry, and university researchers.

For more information see the WHA fact sheet, Avian paramyxoviruses and Australian wild birds.

Pictured: Australian wild birds will now be tested for avian paramyxoviruses. Photo credit: Akos Lumnitzer - amatteroflight.com. 

Chris Bunn joins the Management Committee

Chris Bunn is the newest member of Wildlife Health Australia’s Management Committee, however he has a long association with the organisation.

His career as a veterinarian with state and commonwealth governments spans 46 years. While with the commonwealth government he initiated funding and governance arrangements for the Australian Wildlife Health Network, which later evolved to become WHA.

Chris represents Australian Veterinary Conservation Biology, a special interest group of the Australian Veterinary Association. Their members have wide-ranging interests and careers, from private practitioners seeing the odd wildlife case, to zoo veterinarians, researchers and policy makers.

“One of my aims is to try to ensure strong coordination between veterinary groups interested in wildlife health,” Chris said.

The first management committee meeting of the year will be held in April.


Pictured: Chris Bunn. 

Wildlife workshop at AVA conference

A special one day workshop on wildlife disease in Australia will be available to those who attend the Australian Veterinary Association’s (AVA) annual conference in Melbourne in June.

Presented by AVA’s Australian Veterinary Conservation Biology Special Interest Group and Wildlife Health Australia, the workshop will provide information on diagnostic processes for emergency and exotic wildlife diseases of relevance to Australia. It will explain Australia’s wildlife health system, discuss important diseases, and detail the collection and submission of samples. The workshop will also cover Australia’s emergency animal disease response arrangements and include how wildlife fits into these arrangements and potential exotic disease events.

Registrations are subsidised by Wildlife Health Australia. Download the registration brochure here.


Funding for vets to investigate disease

Funding is available for veterinarians to investigate and report on significant disease incidents in wildlife and livestock.

Registered, non-government veterinarians engaged in clinical veterinary medicine, including all veterinary practitioners in university clinics, zoos and wildlife parks, are eligible to apply to the National Significant Disease Investigation Program. The program is managed by Animal Health Australia. Wildlife Health Australia assists by administering the NSDI funds for wildlife disease events.

A significant animal disease incident could include:
•    atypical morbidity, mortality or rate of disease spread 
•    clinical signs consistent with an exotic disease without a clear alternative diagnosis
•    incidents where an initial investigation fails to establish a diagnosis but findings suggest the potential for significant impacts on trade or market access, farm productivity, public health or wildlife biodiversity conservation.

For approval of funding for wildlife disease investigations, or for more information, contact the WHA coordinator in your jurisdiction or Wildlife Health Australia.


Member profile - Manda Page

Manda Page is principal zoologist with Western Australia’s Department of Parks and Wildlife, and as part of her role she acts as an environmental coordinator for Wildlife Health Australia.

Based in Perth, Manda leads a small team which provides advice to government and the broader community on wildlife management issues such as the protection of threatened species, harvesting of native animals such as kangaroos, and the management of over-abundant wild species.

“As an environmental coordinator for WHA I act as a conduit for people to report wildlife disease events to WHA. I also share information from WHA about potential diseases or risks with land managers within my department. From time to time I also facilitate access to wildlife for research or disease investigation,” Manda explained.

“Significant wildlife disease issues come up infrequently but they can have major consequences. That’s why it is really important to have WHA - a national body that can support us locally,” she said.

Manda meets regularly with other Western Australians who contribute to the WHA network, including WHA coordinator Emily Glass from the Department of Agriculture and Food, and colleagues from Perth Zoo, the Department of Fisheries, and local universities.

“The idea of the meetings is to touch base and discuss common issues and keep the network alive,” she said.

As part of her broader role as principal zoologist, Manda said she enjoyed getting out of the office. Last year she was involved in releasing black-flanked wallabies into Kalbarri National Park, as part of a threatened fauna translocation program. This year, as part of the department’s Western Shield project, she is looking forward to beginning an ambitious project to reintroduce ten threatened species onto Dirk Hartog Island, and further work to control introduced predators such as feral cats and foxes which severely impact our native wildlife.


Pictured: WHA member Manda Page releases a tammar wallaby as part of her role with Western Australia's Department of Parks and Wildlife.

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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