February 1, 2008

Queensland hopes that continuing good news will allow it to accelerate its plan to get the state declared free of equine influenza.

Minister for Primary Industries Tim Mulherin said the state was accelerating towards becoming flu free, with the green zone covering most of the state going white today.

White is the classification that has been used for unaffected states and allows free movement of horses between these areas.

"The last five months have been really tough for horse owners and for the industries that rely on them, but everyone's hard work has finally paid off," he said.

"Strict movement conditions, good biosecurity and the vaccination programme, combined with the cooperation of Queensland horse owners has brought us to the point of eradication a lot sooner than we had hoped.

"There have been no new cases of infection reported since Christmas, and the longer we go without seeing new cases the more confident we are that the disease has burnt out.

"These rapid developments mean tremendous news for green zone horse owners, who will be able to move their horses within the white zone and to unaffected states without testing and quarantine requirements from February 1, 2008. A waybill or other documentation required by the destination state will still be needed.

"If everything continues to go well and our surveillance doesn't find anything of concern, the plan of attack is to also accelerate other changes."

Mr Mulherin said the accelerated programme should also see the amber zone in the south-east corner of the state revert to white in late February.

"The schedule follows a meeting of the National Management Group ... which endorsed plans for an accelerated recovery programme in Queensland and New South Wales.

"It also builds on the success of the department's vaccination and containment programme, which has seen the disease restricted to the south east corner of the state."

The accelerated eradication programme will see:

However, it is still crucial that any suspect cases of equine influenza are reported immediately, the minister said.