Data Management Principles - Wildlife Disease Data Purpose

These principles outline how Wildlife Health Australia (WHA) manages wildlife disease data submitted to WHA. They may also be used as a guide for WHA’s surveillance partners and their agencies in managing data. These principles are complemented by WHA’s Confidentiality principles, which outline management of information provided through WHA. ‘Data’ in these principles refers to any data or information including disease event reports, surveillance data, research findings, informal reports, notifications, etc.

Consultation and Review

These principles were prepared by WHA in consultation with the state and territory Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) appointed Wildlife Health Australia Coordinators (“WHA Coordinators”), and are reviewed and updated as required.


These principles are provided to all submitters of data to the national electronic Wildlife Health Information System (eWHIS) and, as appropriate, to submitters of wildlife disease data to WHA through other avenues. They are also provided to Animal Health Committee (AHC) for information.


WHA coordinates national wildlife disease surveillance programs and collects national surveillance data, with emphasis on supporting Australia’s environment, biodiversity, animal and human health, economy, trade and tourism. WHA administers the national wildlife health information database (eWHIS), which forms part of Australia’s National Animal Health Information Program. WHA also receives wildlife health and disease data and information related to non-surveillance activities.

WHA’s data management is focused on protection of national and jurisdictional interests, particularly where Australia’s environment, economy, trade, and animal and human health may be impacted, while appropriately managing the interests of individual data submitters. The purpose is to improve information sharing between stakeholders whilst recognising the need for care in doing so. The principles described here, along with WHA’s processes, have served WHA well over many years in facilitating sharing of information, and the experience and corporate knowledge of WHA staff ensure that information is managed appropriately.

WHA is an association incorporated under the Incorporated Associations Act in NSW. As such it is required to manage any private information as required by the Australian Privacy Principles in the Privacy Act 1988.

Priniciples of Wildlife Data Management
  1. Submission of data

    1. WHA collects surveillance data on diseases1 of wildlife that may impact on Australia’s environment, biodiversity, economy, trade or animal or human health.

    2. General wildlife disease surveillance data is submitted regularly by WHA Coordinators and WHA surveillance partners (zoo based wildlife hospitals, sentinel veterinary clinics, university wildlife clinics and pathology departments and other organisations who participate in WHA’s surveillance programs). General and targeted surveillance data are also provided on an ad hoc basis by other submitters such as university researchers, private veterinarians and wildlife rehabilitators. WHA also receives data and information relating to non-surveillance activities from similar sources.

    3. Generally, data is submitted by direct entry into eWHIS, a secure web-enabled database. The data captured in eWHIS has a surveillance focus, and more detailed information on the event may be held by the primary submitter. The ability of an eWHIS user to view an individual record in eWHIS is dependent on the confidentiality level assigned to that record by the data submitter, and the access level assigned to the user. Data may also be submitted on an ad hoc basis via other methods e.g. email, phone or during a meeting. Specific data management principles for WHA’s groups are outlined in the group’s Operating Procedures and are underpinned by WHA’s Confidentiality Principles.

    4. Data targeted for capture in eWHIS includes information on: notifiable animal diseases (positive and negative test results), diseases reportable to the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), mass mortalities, biodiversity diseases, public health and zoonotic diseases, poisoning events, ‘interesting or unusual’ events (that may signal an emerging disease), and new or emerging diseases.

    5. Where there is a genuine suspicion or confirmation of a notifiable animal disease, all persons have a legal responsibility to notify their state or territory animal health authority. The requirement to report notifiable animal diseases is contained in individual state and territory legislation. Notifiable animal diseases can be reported via the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888. Reporting data into eWHIS does not constitute notification.

  2. Moderation of data

    1. Information entered into eWHIS is moderated by WHA staff, in consultation with the data submitter where needed. Moderation undertaken by WHA staff includes quality assurance, de-identification for privacy purposes and assessment of the event for any sensitivity within a national context.

    2. If WHA has any concerns as to the sensitivity of information, WHA will advise the data submitter and refer as needed to the WHA Coordinator for further consideration. For concerns within a national context, WHA may consult with Australia’s WOAH Focal Point for Wildlife Health2 and/or the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF).

    3. WHA will not have a role in moderating non-surveillance data unless specifically requested or agreed in writing by the data owner.

  3. Ownership of data

    1. Ownership of data provided to WHA remains with the individual or organisation submitting the information.

    2. Where third party data or information is provided to WHA by a WHA surveillance partner (e.g. pathology results as part of a disease investigation or research data), the WHA surveillance partner, as the data submitter, is responsible for the data sharing arrangement with the third party service provider.

  4. Use and approval of data

    1. Data provided to WHA is used to:

      1. Fulfil Australia’s national and international reporting needs and obligations, including reporting to WOAH;

      2. Assist in identifying risk and inform decision making and policy in the area of wildlife health;

      3. Support investigation and management of disease events in wildlife, domestic animals and humans, including but not limited to emergency, emerging or significant diseases;

      4. Advance our understanding of wildlife health issues.

    2. Summary reports using aggregated data are published by WHA, for example in Animal Health Surveillance Quarterly and Animal Health in Australia publications. More detailed reports will only be published with appropriate permission (see 4f below). 

    3. As needed, reports are generated for the information of AHC; Australian, state and territory government health, environment and agriculture agencies; the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority; and other agencies or organisations as deemed appropriate by WHA. 

    4. Data on nationally notifiable animal disease test results in wildlife may be provided for national data collation purposes. This data may be viewed by DAFF and other jurisdictions on national data collation platforms. 

    5. In certain circumstances, data provided to WHA may be shared in a confidential manner with government agency staff for the purposes described in 4a above, at the discretion of WHA. WHA will endeavour to obtain permission from the data submitter prior to sharing and will inform the data submitter at the earliest opportunity. Where appropriate, the following notice will accompany the data: “The following information is CONFIDENTIAL and is intended for use only with respect to the management of diseases with wildlife as part of their ecology that may impact upon Australia’s trade, human health and/or biodiversity”.

    6. WHA will not make public nor publish information3 without the permission and approval of the data submitter and, where appropriate, the WHA Coordinator. If deemed necessary, reports will also be submitted for review by Australia’s WOAH Focal Point for Wildlife Health in consultation with DAFF.

    7. Policies for communication of data generated by targeted wildlife disease surveillance programs (e.g. the National Avian Influenza Wild Bird Surveillance Program) will be in line with these principles, and will be agreed by the dedicated steering group or committee for each program

    8. All users of eWHIS are required to agree to the WHA Confidentiality Principles prior to being granted access. The WHA Confidentiality Principles state that data submitters should be alert to information that may identify individuals or small communities, especially when there may be some stigma or other adverse consequences associated with such reports. For more information, see the WHA Confidentiality Principles.

    9. Confidentiality and level of access to individual records in eWHIS is managed by the data submitter, with input as needed from the WHA Coordinator for the jurisdiction and WHA staff (see also ‘Moderation’ above).

    10. WHA occasionally receives requests for data, for example for use in a research project, disease risk assessment or publication. WHA has a process for managing these requests, which includes submission of a data request form by the applicant, obtaining approval for release of the data from the data submitter(s) or owner(s), consideration of appropriate acknowledgement, and any conditions on publication considered necessary by WHA and/or the data owner(s).

1 'Disease’ is any disturbance in the health or function of an animal or human.

2 Australia’s WOAH Focal Point for Wildlife sits within WHA and provides support to Australia's WOAH Delegate on matters relating to wildlife

3 e.g. Genbank or other database, peer reviewed journal, online thesis, conference materials, etc.

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