January 14, 2008

The equine flu epidemic which has caused massive disruption to the horse industry in New South Wales could be all over by the middle of March.

"Without a new infection in the coming weeks it is a real possibility that we can stamp out equine influenza in NSW by mid-March," said the state's Acting Minister for Primary Industries, Verity Firth.

"This is the best possible news for our horse industries, but I stress this all hinges on not one more single case in the coming weeks."

She described the mid-March date for elimination as a real possibility - one the government and the state's horse industries are working towards.

"In NSW, the last horse to test positive was on 21 December. The horses involved probably became infected in early December.

"A period of time without new infection after March will need to pass to ensure EI has been eradicated once and for all."

She said steady inroads had been made into quelling the disease. "Our strategy has worked and now hard work is paying off."

NSW chief veterinary officer Bruce Christie said there were now fewer than 250 infected properties in the state. Most are now not actively infected and a process is under way to clear them.

"At the height of outbreak there were more than 5800 infected properties and more than 200 new infected properties detected per day," he said.

"It is a remarkable effort to turn this disease around in such a short amount of time.

"By the end of next month at least 50,000 horses will have been vaccinated as part of the eradication effort.

"Good biosecurity, reporting of suspect horses and sensible movement of animals is more crucial to the campaign than ever. There is no room for complacency; one undiagnosed sick horse could bring down the house of cards."