October 6, 2007

Eradication of horse flu remains a realistic goal, says Biosecurity Queensland's chief veterinary officer, Dr Ron Glanville.

"The overall strategy is to contain the disease within the known infected areas and limit its spread until the epidemic burns itself out," he said.

"At this stage, control measures are on track in Queensland and eradication remains a realistic goal."

Dr Glanville said the state's nationally endorsed strategy has successfully held the disease within the red zone, but continued co-operation from horse owners and workers was crucial to a final successful outcome.

A key component of the plan is the 10km-wide buffer zone around areas of high concentration of the disease, and vaccinating horses in the buffer zone. The strategy, he said, is based on the pre-existing plan for equine flu outlined in the Australian Veterinary Emergency Plan (AUSVETPLAN).

Implementation is supervised by the joint chief veterinary officers from each state.

The key vaccination plank in the programme began across Queensland and New South Wales a week ago, with some vaccine going to Victoria to inoculate horses competing in the spring racing carnival.

Horses are expected to have significant immunity within a fortnight from the first jab, with a booster injectionf five months later expected to provide immunity for a year.

Meanwhile, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh pointed to a network of support services being rolled out across southeast Queensland to help people affected by the outbreak.

The Department of Communities has opened "one-stop shops" on the Gold Coast and at Toowoomba to support individuals and families whose livelihoods are under threat. Another opened earlier at Hamilton, and mobile units are planned which will be on the road seven days a week.

Hot spots to be targeted by the mobile shops include Rosewood, Marburg, Minden, the Sunshine Coast, Gympie and the Gold Coast hinterland.

"This is a tough time for many people and we will ensure there is a helping hand when and where they need it," Ms Bligh said.

Meanwhile, in New South Wales, the 157 horses at Sydney's Centennial Park are now in the clear.

NSW Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald yesterday lifted the quarantine ban at the park. He said testing showed the horses had developed immunity to horse flu and had made good recoveries.

However, Centennial Park remains in a red zone, meaning no horse can go in or out without a permit, and horses will be confined there for seven more days as a precaution.

The formal tallies now stand at 628 infected properties in Queensland, while NSW has 3455, with 361 listed with "dangerous contact" status and 397 "suspect".

"The number of new infected properties over the past three days has not shown a significant decline," a NSW spokesman said, "but is remaining steady with 140 new infected properties on October 2 and 102 new infected propertiess on October 3.

"However, there does appear to be a decline since the peak of 206 new IPs on September 24."