February 28, 2008

New South Wales has won its six-month fight against equine influenza.

The state government announced today that the outbreak had been beaten, and all permit and testing requirements within the state had been lifted.

"It's official, horse flu has now been eradicated from NSW," Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald announced.

"Many international experts were pessimistic of our chances, but again we have demonstrated our proud history of successfully eradicating animal diseases," he said.

Staff working on disease eradication have been unable to locate any cases since December, this despite the testing for isolated pockets of infection on 10,000 properties in the once highly infected purple zone, where in the darkest day more than half of the horse properties were infected.

"The only remaining precautionary requirements to move a horse are prior notification with a Travelling Horse Statement (THS) and event registration.

"The once heavily infected purple zone and the Illawarra red zone have been abolished and replaced with a minimal risk green zone. All other areas join the white zone.

"For the first time since August 25 last year, horse owners are now free to move their horses anywhere within the state with a THS.

"This is a dramatic contrast to the dark days of the state-wide lockdown that stopped all horse movements and forced the cancellation of every horse event in NSW."

Mr Macdonald acknowledged the support of all parts of the horse sector - recreational and professional - for their support and assistance in stamping out the disease.

"Only a few months ago there were EI-infected horses on thousands of NSW properties and at its peak over 200 new property infections each day.

"Tens of thousands of tests have been carried out and today we cannot find one single EI infected animal.

"More than 47,000 horses on 6000 properties have now recovered from EI infection and no longer carry the disease."

Mr Macdonald said today's declaration follows one of the largest exotic animal disease eradication campaigns ever undertaken.

"NSW conducted a massive campaign on a scale never before seen in Australia, using the latest vaccine and laboratory testing technologies," Minister Macdonald said.

"More than 63,000 horses have been vaccinated with the latest genetically modified vaccine.

"To date 128,000 laboratory tests have been conducted to both locate infection and demonstrate that the virus has gone.

"There have been 50,000 tests this year alone, with the majority in the highest risk purple zone where more than half of all horse properties were infected.

"The Department of Primary Industries has been unable to find any infection since December, despite actively searching for isolated pockets of virus on more than 10,000 properties in the purple zone.

"All states and the Commonwealth have agreed that the purple and red zones could be relegated to minimum risk green, and the other 97 percent of NSW to EI free white.

"Given the extensive spread of the EI virus before it was detected and its highly contagious nature, we have succeeded in stamping out this disease in an extremely short time, if not record time.

"South Africa is the only other country to have eradicated EI. New Zealand and Iceland are the only other EI free countries.

"As a precaution, NSW will continue surveillance and testing of sick horses until we can be sure we have won the battle. It therefore remains vital to report sick horses.

"Travelling Horse Statements and event registrations will continue in the interim in the highly unlikely event an isolated pocket of virus is found."

As part of the EI eradication campaign the NSW Government: