Communicable diseases are diseases that can spread from person to person. Find out what we’re doing to prevent outbreaks and monitor these diseases in Australia.
- 12 April 2021
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Communicable diseases in Australia
Most people will have a communicable disease in their lifetime, such as the common cold or a stomach bug. These are usually mild and only last for a few days.
But some cases can be more serious. In Australia:
- in 2015-16, nearly 400,000 people were hospitalised as a result of infection with a communicable disease
- communicable diseases caused about 6,300 deaths in 2015
While the majority of communicable diseases are mild, it is important that steps are taken to prevent, monitor and respond to communicable diseases in Australia. Doing so helps reduce the risk communicable diseases pose to our health.
What we’re doing about communicable diseases
We develop policy and work with experts, organisations and other agencies to protect Australia against disease outbreaks.
Our work to prevent and keep track of communicable diseases includes:
- educating people with the facts on communicable diseases, immunisation, antimicrobial resistance and travel health
- providing free immunisations as listed in the National Immunisation Program Schedule
- coordination of national prevention and response activities through the Communicable Diseases Network Australia, in collaboration with state and territory health departments
- classifying some diseases as notifiable diseases through the National Notifiable Disease List, an instrument under the National Health Security Act 2007
- reporting of notifiable diseases to our National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System, in order to better understand these diseases and the threat to public health, which enables us to respond to incidents of these diseases more effectively
- collecting, analysing and reporting this information from sentinel and laboratory surveillance systems
If a disease outbreak affecting multiple states or territories is identified, we coordinate national action as outlined in the Emergency Response Plan for Communicable Disease Incidents of National Significance through:
- coordination of a national health sector response by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) under the guidance of relevant sub committees and technical advisory committees
- coordination of the investigation and control of communicable disease outbreaks by the Communicable Diseases Network Australia
- implementation of other emergency health management plans
As part of a national outbreak response, each state and territory will implement agreed public health responses to an outbreak in their jurisdiction, report incidences of communicable disease to the Department, administer crises management in their jurisdiction and work with the local community to respond to and recover from an outbreak
We also coordinate networks such as the: