Pandemic / Biosecurity

Pandemics are epidemics of disease that occur on a worldwide scale and are traditionally caused by infectious diseases such as influenza.

The Australian Government's overall strategy for responding to an emerging pandemic is to plan a number of measures to:

  • Delay the arrival of the pandemic in Australia.
  • Contain or slow the spread of the pandemic virus once it reaches Australia.
  • Social distancing personal hygiene management strategies will be encouraged.

An influenza pandemic in Australia may:

  • Arise rapidly and spread quickly
  • Make people very ill and many will likely die
  • Generate unprecedented levels of fear
  • Occur in several waves, each lasting for several months
  • Require government, business and many community agencies to be involved in a whole-of-society response
  • Force the closure of schools, child care centres and public gatherings as a social distancing measure
  • Result in health care services not being able to provide direct care in some cases
  • Result in very high staff absence rates for some periods during the pandemic.

What can I do to prepare for a pandemic?

You should prepare by considering the issues outlined here and preparing a home emergency kit. Discuss how you and your household will cope during an influenza pandemic amongst yourselves and with other family and friends.

Most people have family and friends that they could turn to during a pandemic. Make sure you have an up‐to‐date list of phone numbers, email addresses and household addresses so that you can keep in touch.

How can I stay healthy?

The following measures will help you stay healthy:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water (or alcohol‐based hand cleanser) frequently.
  • Try to stay a metre away from sick people to reduce the spread of germs. Delay visits with people who are sick until they are better, if possible.
  • Eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly.
  • Get an annual influenza vaccination until a customised vaccine for the pandemic virus is available. It won’t protect you from pandemic influenza, but it will prevent seasonal influenza.
  • If you are in a high‐risk group, such as being over 65 or having a chronic illness, talk to your GP about pneumococcal vaccination. It helps prevent pneumonia, which can follow an influenza infection.

What if I get sick?

  • Special health arrangements will be communicated through the media.
  • Follow the advice and directions of health officials.
  • Health care may be delivered differently in a pandemic to ensure people are cared for at a time of high demand.
  • Pregnant women or people who have a chronic illness (such as respiratory diseases or cancer) should seek medical attention as soon as they develop symptoms of influenza (see below).

Symptoms of influenza

  • Fever 
  • Chills and shivering
  • Sore throat
  • Dry cough
  • Sneezing
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Tiredness

If your health deteriorates considerably or you are having trouble breathing, call 000. If a pandemic phone advice hotline is established, the number will be advertised widely.

How can I help stop the spread of infection?

  • Stay at home and avoid close contact with other people if you are sick.
  • Never visit people in hospital if you are sick. Your mild illness could be deadly to someone who is already unwell.
  • Ideally, cough and sneeze into disposable tissues. Tissues should only be used once and then thrown away.
  • Cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve if you don’t have a tissue.
  • Put used tissues in the nearest waste receptacle (e.g. in a sealable plastic bag).
  • Wash your hands after touching used tissues.
  • Avoid shaking hands ‐ coughing into your hand then shaking hands or shaking hands with someone who is sick is an easy way to spread influenza.
  • Your doctor may ask you to wear a face mask when you visit the practice.
  • Take your temperature at home with a thermometer ‐ this information can help your doctor assess your progress.
  • Paracetamol is good for aches and pains, and for reducing high temperatures. Don’t use anything else for children unless you talk to your doctor or pharmacist first.

How can I stay informed?

Listen to local and national radio, watch news reports on television, and read your newspaper and other sources of printed and web‐based information.

Biosecurity

The introduction of exotic animals, plant and aquatic pests or diseases could cause significant impact to the environment and industry.

If you notice anything unusual, contact one of the below hotlines and help protect Australia.

Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline: 1800 675 888
Plant Pest Hotline: 1800 084 881
Fisheries Aquatic Biosecurity hotline: 0413 381 094

Source: Centre for Disease Control

Further information