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, emerging, establishing or spreading 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 are a number of legislative instruments 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
- Human coronavirus with pandemic potential
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.
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
Passengers and crew who are feeling unwell on arriving in Australia should see a Biosecurity Officer .
Biosecurity Officers will ask about:
- where a person has travelled
- when they began to feel unwell
- what symptoms you have
- 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 and crew to provide information about their health and travel history
- checking vaccination certificates
- providing information about what symptoms to look out for and how to seek medical attention if unwell