Key body recognises Australia's freedom from equine flu

January 12, 2009

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has formally acknowledged Australia's status as being free of equine influenza (EI).

The official recognition follows a sustained surveillance and compliance effort in the 12 months since the last notified case if equine influenza on Christmas Day 2007, in Queensland.

Queensland agriculture minister Tim Mulherin described the international declaration as a monumental achievement with big economic and practical benefits.

"When I declared Queensland EI free last year, I acknowledged the heavy burden the measures required to achieve this result have placed on the horse industry and horse owners," he said.

"These are the people that now stand to benefit the most from this international recognition.

"The cost to eradicate equine influenza was significant, but what we stood to lose was even greater, and it wasn't just one-off losses.

"If this disease had taken hold it would have burdened the industry and horse owners every day, every season, and every year, with its continual presence." "This is pay-off time for all those involved in the eradication efforts."

The immediate impact of the newly declared freedom is the revocation of the requirement for mandatory event registration, and the removal of the whole of Queensland EI white zone, essentially returning Queensland the same standing it held in pre-flu days.

"Although it could be said we are back to normal, we have moved forward in terms of having voluntary measures in place to combat future threats," the minister said.

"For the sake of every horse owner, I encourage owners and people working with horses to continue to be responsible by observing good biosecurity measures when interacting with horses both at home and at any events, ensuring their horses are healthy before competing in events and to contact their vet if they suspect any infectious disease.

"With Australia proving once again its prowess at disease eradication, the wherewithal and desire to succeed was driven by a tireless all-round staff effort.

"I saw the hours and efforts and lengths my staff and those working in this response put in to achieve this.

"I feel proud of our efforts and acknowledge the sense of satisfaction everyone involved should now feel with this freedom declaration."