Communicable diseases

Communicable diseases, or infectious diseases, are spread from one person to another, or from an animal to a person, through viruses or bacteria in the air, food, blood or other bodily fluids. The Australian Government monitors communicable diseases through the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System, which coordinates the surveillance of more than 50 communicable diseases (Department of Health 2016).

Due to good sanitation practices, and the use of antibiotics and immunisation programs, communicable diseases are not generally a major issue in Australia (AIHW 2022). But, some communicable diseases – particularly bloodborne viruses, and sexually transmissible infections (STIs) – are more prevalent in the prison population than in the wider Australian community (Butler and Simpson 2017).

This is due, in part, to the higher level of at-risk behaviours that people engage in before and during incarceration, compared with the general population. These include injecting drug use, needle-sharing, unsafe sexual practices, amateur tattooing and physical violence (Butler and Simpson 2017).