Australian Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Bruce Billson, announced this week in Jakarta, a further $6 million to help combat avian influenza in the region through increased sharing of Australian expertise and support for World Health Organisation detection and response capabilities.
'Today's announcement takes Australia's total contribution to combating zoonotic diseases in our region to over $18 million since 2003. It continues Australia's comprehensive strategy of working at the global, regional and national levels to combat avian influenza, greatly enhancing the regional capacity to detect and respond to emerging public health threats,' Mr Billson said.
'The new activities will particularly assist Indonesia, Vietnam, and China with influenza surveillance, emergency preparedness and response capabilities that will be complemented by a major regional program and support for the World Health Organisation's Global Influenza Program.
' The Australian Government will be the first donor to respond to an appeal from the Indonesian Government for further assistance with its avian influenza control program. Previous support for infectious disease surveillance and control in Indonesia, delivered through the World Health Organisation , has placed the Australian Government in a good position to respond quickly.
'Human to human transmission with high mortality rates would pose an enormous health and regional development challenge and present a major threat to Australia's national interest and security.
'Although there have been no reports of laboratory confirmed human cases of avian influenza since April 2005, the risk of a resurgence is still significant and Australia remains committed to helping vulnerable countries in our region prevent and manage outbreaks of zoonotic diseases.
'The Australian Government's aid agency, AusAID, will support the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry to expand its regional zoonotics programs offered to regional governments in collaboration with the World Health Organisation's Western Pacific Regional Office and the ASEAN Secretariat.
'Drawing from Australia's world class animal health and disease management expertise our Department of Health and Ageing will establish a regional network of Australian epidemiologists, to help build partner government capacity.
'The Australian aid program will continue working to reduce risks to human and animal health and economic performance by strengthening regional and national rapid response capabilities, surveillance and reporting, laboratory diagnostics and effective regional emergency preparedness, including through the provision of training and equipment ,' Mr Billson said.
According to the World Health Organisation, 97 cases of avian influenza and 53 deaths have been reported since January 2004.