February 27, 2008

Queensland's red zone is consigned to history today as the state continues its march to being officially declared free of equine influenza.

From today, the current amber zone will become white and the red zone will turn amber.

"There will be no red zone," said Primary Industries Minister Tim Mulherin.

"While there will remain some restrictions, we are continuing full steam ahead towards being declared EI free.

"These zone changes are another major milestone in the fight against EI and will further free up horse movement in south east Queensland.

"We had anticipated being able to implement these changes late last week. However, adverse weather conditions during the past fortnight slightly slowed our surveillance efforts."

Mr Mulherin said despite these conditions, the department's surveillance team had successfully completed random testing of more than 1000 horses, mostly in the amber zone, in preparation for the zone changes.

"This was a huge task and the team of 26 veterinarians and 22 equine field assistants that were out in the field did an amazing job to collect the samples and get them back to the labs in the time they did," he said.

The red zone's reclassification as amber means that horses can move freely on hoof and can be transported with just a waybill within the amber zone. However, a permit and waybill will be necessary for horses to move outside the zone or interstate, and specific isolation and testing requirements may apply depending on individual horse status.

The amber zone's move to white will see it joined with the rest of the state.

Within the white zone horses can move freely on hoof and can be transported with only a waybill. This reclassification will also make it significantly easier to move horses from this area into white zones in other states. Waybills and travel documentation are still required.

Queensland's Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Ron Glanville said the zone changes moved the state further towards the goal of being free of EI by June 30.

"There have been no new cases of infection confirmed since Christmas Day, and there are now no EI-infected properties in Queensland," he said.

"However, people need to remain vigilant and take the necessary precautions. It is crucial that any suspect cases of EI are reported immediately."