7 minutes to read

The Emergency Animal Disease Hotline – how does it work?

11 Jul

The Emergency Animal Disease Hotline (also known as ‘the EAD Hotline’), 1800 675 888, is a national toll-free telephone number that connects callers to the relevant state or territory animal health authority to report concerns about potential emergency animal diseases (EADs). This is important as it is not a resource for general animal health advice or concerns.

While many of our members and stakeholders know of this hotline, promote and even use it, you may have noticed that the ‘watch’ has dropped off its name recently. This decision was made upon recommendation to the Animal Health Committee and so we thought it was a timely reminder to give a little backgrounder to the purpose of this hotline, how it works on a national level and how it would work if an EAD broke out.

30 years of the EAD Hotline

The EAD Hotline was first launched in 1994 and is fundamental to Australia’s general surveillance system for animal diseases by facilitating early reporting of suspect EADs in all jurisdictions.

Anyone can call the EAD Hotline and calls are automatically diverted to a phone number registered for each jurisdiction – the number is monitored 24/7.

A National Standard Operating Procedure (NASOP) for the EAD Hotline, endorsed by Animal Health Committee, provides guidance to jurisdictions on scope and standards to ensure rapid and appropriate responses to EAD Hotline calls.

Animal Health Australia manages the telecommunications account for the provision of the EAD Hotline, and state and territory animal health authorities are responsible for how calls are managed and serviced.

The total number of calls to the EAD Hotline each quarter is published on the last page of the Animal Health Surveillance Quarterly report. More than 5000 calls are made to the EAD Hotline annually across Australia, particularly in the past few years, this number has grown. While this seems like a lot, not all calls are relevant to disease reports and this is an unfortunate reality of broadcasting a national hotline.

Name change – EAD Watch Hotline to EAD Hotline

A recent evaluation of the jurisdictional government websites that promote the EAD Hotline found that the names given to the EAD Hotline, and the context and criteria given for its use, also differed between jurisdictions.

As such, jurisdictions supported removing the word ‘watch’ from the title and that is why it is now called the ‘Emergency Animal Disease (EAD) Hotline’.

Messaging on all jurisdictional websites has been nuanced to provide users with more guidance on what constitutes an EAD and when to call the EAD Hotline, and more importantly who to call for more general animal health advice.

A recent evaluation also recommended the use of call centres for easier management of hoax and threat calls, to appropriately filter and triage calls, provide reports on response time and for easy acknowledgment of calls. Currently five jurisdictions are using call centres for managing the EAD Hotline and the issue is under current consideration in the other three jurisdictions.

In order to ensure the EAD Hotline is effective and efficient, regular monitoring, including testing is proposed. The results of this monitoring will be reported to stakeholders to ensure this important surveillance tool operates as intended.

Watch this short video from our Head of Surveillance Dr Bronwyn Hendry on how to best report a concern of an EAD.

How to get information if an EAD broke out and who would I call?

In the event of an EAD outbreak in Australia we understand there would be a hugely increased need for information access. The Australian Government through Services Australia can stand up a separate call centre dedicated to the provision of national information which will be supported by the outbreak.gov.au website.

Affected states and territories would also stand-up dedicated outbreak phone numbers or call centres to manage enquiries related to the outbreak. The EAD Hotline would continue to be used for reporting suspected EADs outside of the outbreak.

We now ask that all members and stakeholders promoting the EAD Hotline to ensure their resources are updated to ensure the hotline is named appropriately online and in printed resources, please email aha@animalhealthaustralia.com.au if you require any assistance with assets or branding materials to do this.