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Both countries have been slow to recognise that infectious diseases are a direct threat to their population; that they are likely to aggravate and, in some circumstances provoke, social fragmentation, threaten trade and commerce and undermine national confidence.

Despite the oft-cited success of eradicating smallpox globally, serious infectious diseases have not gone away, as the advent of new and re-emerging disease threats such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), multi-drug resistance and the ongoing outbreak of avian influenza ( flu ) across much of Asia clearly demonstrates.

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In the lead-up to federation, one of the matters raised regularly as one for which a national government should have the power to make laws was quarantine.

The reason given was that quarantine was essential to the health and prosperity of Australia, which this statement from 1884 reflects: Quarantine is a means only to the end sought: which last is the preservation of the public health in Australasia .

The existence of such threats, combined with the spectre of bioterrorism, has prompted countries around the world to examine closely their capacity to prevent, detect and respond to serious infectious diseases.

Australia is no exception, despite the fact that it has so far been spared infection from the likes of SARS and the recent avian flu.

The information obtained from these interviews has been supplemented with other research based on academic literature, government information and media reports.

As such, the aim of this paper is to raise issues for discussion and highlight both the positive and negative aspects of Australia s current emergency health response arrangements.

Vaccines and anti-virals Conclusions Endnotes Appendix Infectious disease control has always been central to public health in Australia, and it was largely concern about infectious disease that led to the establishment of the Commonwealth Department of Health in 1921.

The Commonwealth today retains a strong interest in infectious disease, even as its interest and involvement in public health has broadened well beyond this issue.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, and continuing into the early twentieth century, scientific and medical knowledge about the origins of disease made considerable advances.

Disease and its spread were no longer believed to be due to pollution of the air from insanitary conditions (for example, malaria was thought to be a result of bad air ), but rather caused by bacteria.

Moreover, these living agents were found to be identifiable and controllable.

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