Experts Say A National Australian Disease Control Centre Is Needed To Be Ready For Ebola

A health worker helps a sick girl onto a truck to be taken to the county clinic for observation for possible Ebola in Dolo Town, Liberia. John Moore/Getty Images

Two Australian experts have found a gap in Australia’s plans for the possible arrival of Ebola on our shores from West Africa.

Writing in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, they suggest centralising the development of guidelines and protocols for dealing with suspected cases.

They also argue Australia should provide both resources and expertise to affected countries.

Allen C. Cheng of Monash University and Heath Kelly of the Australian National University says Australia is developing guidelines and protocols for dealing with suspected cases.

However, centres of disease control in other countries were often established only after deficiencies in response were exposed by public health crises, such as SARS in Canada.

“In addition to centralising expertise, these centres often facilitate outbreak responses at home and abroad,” they write in the journal

“Australia does not have this capacity.”

Apart from the relatively mild H1N1 influenza pandemic in 2009, Australia has not been involved in major outbreaks in recent decades.

They write:

“It would seem unlikely that our response would be significantly tested at home by the current Ebola outbreak, but we would do well to heed the lessons learned by other countries and be proactive in co-ordinating a consistent and outward looking response.”

A national disease control centre could perform regular risk assessments and response plans for emerging threats, ensure that public health laboratories are expert and resourced, to anticipate research needs in advance of potential threats and to ensure an appropriate level of awareness and training.

“Such a centre may also have an international role, especially in helping our Pacific neighbours prepare for and respond to emerging infections, for which the most effective response is containment at the source,” the experts write.

“Perhaps this role should extend beyond countries thought to be in our traditional sphere of influence to countries that desperately need help now.”

There have been 3,083 and 6553 cases of Ebola reported in West Africa, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

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