What to do during an outbreak

​​​​​​​​​When a new pest or disease outbreak is suspected in plants or animals, you need to act immediately. This page provides information on how to report your find and the steps you can take to minimise the impact this has on your property and those around you.

Report pests and diseases​

Some diseases are highly contagious and can spread quickly over large distances. It is critical that authorities are notified as soon as possible. This provides the best chance of containing the pest or disease.

The hotline numbers below will put you in touch with th​e closest department of agriculture or primary industries.

To report pests and diseases in animals (including livestock, birds and aquatic animals), phone t​​he
Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888.

To report plant pests and diseases or new weeds, phone the
Emergency Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.

Some pests and diseases are ‘notifiable’ which means, by law, they must be reported to authorities. Check with your department of agriculture or primary industries​ about what needs to be reported in your state or territory.

The information below may help you prepare your information about the pest, disease or weed when you go to report it.

What to tell authorities when reporting an outbreak

When you first contact your veterinarian, agronomist or local agriculture department, you will need to provide basic information that will help determine the most appropriate course of action.

Animals (livestock and birds)

  • your name and (if not you) the name of the owner and/or farm manager
  • the full address and telephone number of the property types of animals (e.g. sheep and cattle) and approximate numbers on the property (including feral animals) which of the animals are affected (e.g. is it only cattle?)
  • a brief description of visible, clinical signs of disease and any lesions observed the date when you first noticed these signs
  • whether you suspect a particular pest or disease
  • the approximate number of sick or dead animals;
  • whether any animals have recently left or been brought onto the property
  • whether or not the property has a biosecurity plan.

Plants, crops and trees

  • your name and (if not you) the name of the owner and/or farm manager
  • the full address and telephone number of the property
  • types of planting, broad acre, orchard?
  • the variety of planting e.g. wheat, barley, citrus etc.
  • where the affected plants were sourced from
  • the quantity of planting in number or hectares
  • the current stage of harvest cycle e.g. currently harvesting or recently sown
  • if any plants or plant material has left the property
  • disease signs that are showing, or a description of the pest
  • whether there are any pickers or itinerant workers on the property
  • whether there is a packing shed on the property
  • any containment measures that people have taken so far
  • whether any machinery has moved on or off the property
  • whether any machinery has been shared with other growers/farmers
  • whether the property is in an exclusion zone, e.g. fruit fly or rice exclusion
  • details on access to the property
  • the recent use of chemical(s) or calendar sprays
  • whether irrigation is used on the property, and if so what type?
  • whether or not the property has a biosecurity plan?

What to do at the site of an outbreak

Once you have reported the outbreak, follow any instructions provided by the biosecurity authority. This includes the following biosecurity measures:

Animals

  • Do not move animals (including birds) onto or off the property.
  • Isolate (quarantine) suspect animals in well-fenced paddocks, yards, buildings, pens or cages.
  • Some diseases are air-borne so keep your stock away from the boundary of the property.
  • Avoid the movement of people, vehicles, equipment, manure and soiled litter, and product (e.g. milk and wool) on and off the property – unless otherwise directed.
  • If dealing with suspect animals, clean and disinfect afterwards (including any gear or equipment that the animal has had contact with).
  • Clean boots, clothes and equipment that has been worn or used at the site to remove contaminated soil, manure and plant material.
  • See the information below about what you are required to do if a national livestock standstill is declared.

Plants, crops and trees

  • Take note of the symptoms and the plant which you found the pest or disease on, and if possible take a clear photo.
  • Where practical, take a specimen (e.g. leaf, flower, fruit) that is affected. Place it in a plastic bag at the site, seal it, and put it in a fridge for freezer for preservation.
  • Tag or mark the site with a peg or something non-degradable that won’t blow away.
  • Avoid further contact or disturbance of the site to minimise dispersal or potential spread.
  • Use a GPS to record the site’s location or mark the site on a map. Alternatively, sketch a map to identify the detection site.
  • When reporting, provide sufficient detail of the detection site to allow a person to return to the exact location.
  • Clean boots, clothes and equipment that has been worn or used at the site to remove contaminated soil and plant material.

If you are waiting for confirmation of a pest, then you should also:

  • restrict operations (such as harvesting) in the area
  • withdraw other people, vehicles and equipment from the area
  • restrict access to the area
  • ensure that other people who have been at the site, clean and disinfect their hands, clothing and equipment
  • do not let produce or machinery leave the property.

Invasive marine pests

After reporting your find:

  • Check the marine pests interactive map or use the pest identification cards to see if the organism is native to Australian waters, and is not an invasive species that looks very similar.
  • Collect a sample for identification. Where possible, collect one or two samples of suspect organisms, place in a plastic bag along with a little seawater and freeze as quickly as possible. Do not attempt to collect samples if it is not safe to do so or if you are in a protected area such as a marine park, national park, aquatic reserve or any area closed to fishing.
  • Note the exact location using a GPS if you have one. Besides the geographical location, write down as many details as possible, including shore markers, depth of water, substrate or infrastructure the organism was found on etc. Also note the date, how many individuals you saw and any other characteristics you think might be useful.
  • More information can be found on the Keeping marine pests out of Australian waters website.

What to do if a national livestock standstill is declared

If Australia had an outbreak of a highly contagious animal disease such as foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), a critical disease response activity will be to stop the movement of all susceptible livestock, initially for a period of three days (72 hours).

A national livestock standstill will restrict spread of the disease and allow authorities to conduct surveillance activities and trace the movement of affected livestock – it buys time.

Do not move your animals

When a national livestock standstill is declared, all animals that are susceptible to the disease must not be moved anywhere in Australia - even if they don’t look sick, and the disease hasn’t been detected in your area. In the case of an FMD outbreak, all cloven hoofed animals will not be able to move which includes cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, alpacas, llamas, deer and buffalo.

People who do not comply with the standstill may contribute to the disease spreading, and it becoming more difficult to contain and eradicate. Long-term responses not only affect agriculture industries, the economy and environment, but as seen in the United Kingdom’s FMD outbreak in 2001, the impact of this disease went well beyond the farm gate.

Under state and territory laws, you can be prosecuted for moving livestock during a national standstill.

The benefits of a national livestock standstill were demonstrated here in Australia in 2007 during the outbreak of equine influenza (horse flu). The standstill of all horses and donkeys contributed to the relatively quick and successful eradication of the disease from Australia’s horse population.

How you will be notified about a national livestock standstill being declared

A national livestock standstill would be considered a national emergency and announced through a range of media and other communication channels. Government agencies, livestock industries and other agricultural organisations would also provide information about the standstill directly to their members and stakeholders.

Depending on the disease situation, the standstill may be extended beyond the initial 72 hours. If a decision is made to lift the national livestock standstill, individual states and territories may choose to maintain the standstill in their jurisdiction. In this case you will need to contact your state or territory department of agriculture/primary industries to confirm which movement restrictions are in place. Movement restrictions may also apply to products. In the case on an FMD outbreak, products including wool and dairy may have movement restrictions applied to them.

If a national livestock standstill is declared, the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources will provide up-to-date information for industry groups and the public on this webs​ite (outbreak.gov.au).

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