Is Australia response-ready?

WHEN the H1N1 influenza A virus hit Australian shores two years ago, healthcare authorities scrambled to do all they could to minimise the impact of this new illness.

While acknowledging they handled the situation well, chief executive officer of the Public Health Association of Australia, Michael Moore, believes Australia could have been better prepared. Many people became very sick – some even dying – before the federal government and its agencies were able to coordinate distribution of a vaccine, he says.

“I think the government would say, ‘We had a swine flu outbreak and it was not a disaster’ – but while this is true, we believe the situation and others like it would have been handled more effectively if a centre for disease control had been in operation,” he says.

The call for an Australian centre for disease control (CDC) is not new.

In the late 1980s, Emeritus Professor Bob Douglas, then