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Senate Estimates: Office of the Chief Veterinary Officer

Estimates & Committees
Lee Rhiannon 27 May 2013

Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee

Estimates hearings, 27 May 2013

Office of the Chief Veterinary Officer

·         Dr Bob Biddle (Acting Chief Veterinary Officer)

Full transcript available here


Senator RHIANNON: Thank you very much, Mr Chair. Dr Biddle, I notice that the present version of the AUSVETPLAN for the Australian bat lyssavirus is 2009, but I think there has been a review coming up to 2012. I was just wondering where the review is up to and if it is anticipated that there will be any changes in that plan.

Dr Biddle: I am not exactly sure when the next revision will be completed. I can recall it is on a work program, part of the priorities managed by Animal Health Australia. It is usual to find a range of technically driven changes on each update. I guess the recent event in Queensland where a horse was diagnosed with Australian bat lyssavirus for the first time would be one of the areas that would need to be addressed in the process of updating that plan.

Senator RHIANNON: When do you anticipate that the public would see the AUSVETPLAN for lyssavirus?

Dr Biddle: There is a currently available plan. The revised plan that would be publically available after it is endorsed in the usual way through the ministerial council processes.

Senator RHIANNON: Can you give us a time line of when we can anticipate getting to that point?

Dr Biddle: I would have to take that on notice. It may be quite a number of months or longer.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. Just sticking with the issue about the bats and the Hendra virus, I was interested about Animal Health Australia and what they think of the effective repeated and the frequent stress that flying foxes' health is often exposed to, and what you are learning about that, what the results are when the animals are under stress with regard to their health.

Dr Biddle: Yes, there are a number of research projects that have been commissioned looking into the effect of various management options around flying foxes in particular and the stressors they face and the effect those stresses might have on shedding virus. Those findings would lead to the environment agencies in particular taking account of those stressors in how they recommend control measures that might be threatening to people because of large camps of fruit bats or whatever. Really, the research informs better policy in the longer term and it is a dynamic process.

Senator RHIANNON: So is there a question mark over to what degree they shed the virus according to the stress that they are under? I noticed Dr Hume Field's research, where he said that the stress associated with dispersal is no more than the stress associated with mating. I was just wondering if there was a question mark over to what degree they are shedding the virus when they are under stress.

Dr Biddle: Yes, we are aware of Dr Hume's recent reported findings, and they were significant because the assumption had been stressors like that may significantly increase the level of viral shedding. To find to the contrary was a significant finding, and that sort of scientific knowledge needs to be factored into recommendations about management options, as I mentioned before.

Senator RHIANNON: And that is occurring?

Dr Biddle: To my knowledge, yes.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you.

ACTING CHAIR: Senator Rhiannon, if we can suspend until 11 o'clock for the morning tea break to ensure Hansard start the week off refreshed.

Senator RHIANNON: Okay. Thank you.


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