What is biosecurity?
Biosecurity refers to all the measures taken to minimise the risk of infectious diseases caused by viruses, bacteria or other microorganisms entering and establishing in Australia, potentially harming the Australian population, our food security and economy.
The Biosecurity Act 2015 (the Act) is designed to provide a modern, flexible and adaptive approach to managing these risks. There are two regulations made under the Act:
Information on risks relating to animals and plants is available on the Department of Agriculture’s website.
Why is biosecurity important?
When people travel they can develop infections through food, water, insect bites, contact with animals or contact with other people. Often a person does not know they have developed an infectious disease until they become unwell days or weeks later. Symptoms of an infection might only develop, or become serious, after a person has returned to Australia.
Some of the diseases at which biosecurity measures are directed are rare and/or serious, such as viral haemorrhagic fevers (VHFs) or severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Some more familiar diseases are also important because outbreaks can occur if they are introduced by an unwell traveller.
The Act lists specific diseases (Listed Human Diseases, or LHDs) which are contagious and can cause significant harm to human health. These include:
- human influenza with pandemic potential
- severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)
- Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS)
- viral haemorrhagic fevers
- yellow fever (in northern Australia)
If anyone shows symptoms of an infectious disease while travelling to Australia the aircraft Captain or ship’s Master must report this to a Biosecurity Officer from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, before arrival in Australia.
Passengers who are feeling unwell should see a Biosecurity Officer on arriving in Australia.
Biosecurity Officers meet very ill travellers on incoming aircrafts or ships to determine if they are carrying a serious infectious disease. This allows people to be referred for immediate medical attention if they are carrying a particularly serious disease such as yellow fever.
What Biosecurity Officers need to know
Biosecurity Officers will ask about:
- where a person has travelled
- when they began to feel unwell
- helps make sure the traveller gets the right medical attention
- minimises the risk of spreading an infectious disease
Information on how personal information is managed is detailed in this Traveller with Illness Checklist Privacy Notice:
Protecting Australia against outbreaks
The Australian Government has the power to protect our borders against serious communicable diseases. This may involve:
- asking passengers to provide information about their health and travel history
- preventing entry into Australia of some passengers
- checking vaccination certificates