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NZ checking recent Aust horse imports for equine flu

August 26, 2007

Equine flu Q & A

Following confirmation from the Australian Government that several horses in New South Wales and Queensland have symptoms of equine influenza, MAF Biosecurity New Zealand (MAFBNZ) has moved quickly to trace horses that have entered the country from Australia since August 1.

Preliminary results this afternoon have identified 97 horses that have been imported from Australia on 55 properties throughout New Zealand. Several of these horses have come from states other than New South Wales, where the outbreak is centred. These figures are expected to change as the investigation proceeds. MAFBNZ has received initial information from Australian authorities on the number of horses exported during this time and is expecting more information over the next few days.

MAF Biosecurity New Zealand, Assistant Director General, Dr Barry O'Neil said there is currently no evidence of the disease in New Zealand, but MAFBNZ is taking the issue very seriously and adopting a precautionary approach.

"We are working to quickly identify all horses that have entered New Zealand and are in the process of contacting all properties that have received horses. We have received a number of calls from concerned members of the public but our investigations to date have found no evidence of Equine Influenza."

"Coughs and colds are very common in horses. If you suspect that your horse may have Equine Influenza, or you have imported a horse from Australia in the last 10 days and have concerns we recommend that you isolate the horse from other animals on your property. Horse owners need to be vigilant for signs of the disease. Anyone who suspects their horse may be showing symptoms of equine influenza should contact their vet immediately or phone the MAF Biosecurity New Zealand emergency hotline 0800 80 99 66."

Yesterday, MAFBNZ halted all imports of horses from Australia and tightened up border procedures around the importation of horse equipment.

All horse equipment that arrives in New Zealand from Australia will be directed by MAFBNZ to a treatment facility for cleaning, disinfection and/or fumigation. Passengers entering New Zealand from Australia will be questioned as to their movements within the country. If they have come from or visited an infected area they will be questioned further and may have their personal luggage searched.

MAF Biosecurity New Zealand is working closely with the Australian authorities, the New Zealand equine industry and the veterinary association, and will review the situation over the next two or three days, as more information comes to light.

A comprehensive response plan in place and two vaccines are registered for emergency use, should the disease ever be found here. There are currently no plans to vaccinate horses in New Zealand as a precautionary measure.


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