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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:

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: