May 12, 2008


A huge effort was required to contain equine influenza in Australia.

New Zealand horse owners are being encouraged to register their stock on a national database to improve the handling of any equine disease outbreaks.

The project is being pushed along while the profile of equine diseases is higher than normal in the wake of the influenza outbreak among horses in New South Wales and Queensland.

The campaign is being driven by MAF Biosecurity New Zealand and the New Zealand Equine Health Association (NZEHA) in partnership with AsureQuality.

An up-to-date database of horses and donkeys, covering who owns them and where the animals are located, will not only improve the country's ability to respond and recover from a disease outbreak or emergency, but help in planning.

AsureQuality provides Biosecurity New Zealand with biosecurity and emergency response capability through its national AgriBase database. It was created specifically for biosecurity purposes and national land-use monitoring.

The current project has involved development of an equine-specific registration form (PDF, 839KB) and it has been made available online at www.asurequality.com.

The form has also been mailed to equine breed-registry members.

"Regular updates of the information in AgriBase are needed as the populations of horses and donkeys in New Zealand are very mobile and fluid, meaning locations and numbers can change widely from year to year," a spokesperson said.

"A large amount of effort in the beginning of the equine influenza response in Australia was directed toward determining the number and distribution of horses.

"This current project looks to expand the number of horse properties in AgriBase as there is significant public awareness around equine exotic diseases currently," she said.

"The outbreak in Australia has made many equine owners aware that in the event of an exotic disease outbreak it is vital that the number, location and ownership of all horses and donkeys can be quickly identified.

"This information enables rapid assessment of the spread of the disease and facilitates investigations, surveillance and response activities. Registration of horse properties in AgriBase is a fast, easy, way to provide this information."

In the event of an equine disease incursion in New Zealand there would be an immediate nationwide control of horse movements until confirmation of the outbreak.

Properties with affected horses, as well as those where horses may have been in contact with affected animals, would be placed under strict quarantine.

Movement of people in contact with sick horses would be controlled.

All equipment, transport vehicles, stables and stalls would need to be cleaned and disinfected with an anti-viral disinfectant.

Biosecurity New Zealand says owners should contact their vet immediately if a horse develops symptoms consistent with equine influenza, infectious anaemia, or strangles, The vet will assess your horse and, if necessary, notify the MAF Biosecurity hotline (0800 80 99 66).

The key threats:

Equine influenza

A highly contagious exotic disease affecting the respiratory tract of horses. Symptoms include:

» Equine flu treatment & care
» Equine flu Q & A
» Colds and flu in horses

Equine infectious anaemia (EIA)

A viral disease of horses spread by biting insects. The infection is permanent and animals usually die, symptoms include:

Strangles

A highly contagious bacterial disease that affects the nose or lymph nodes of horses. symptoms include:

» Blood test can identify Strangles carriers