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Equine flu crisis worsens in Australia

August 27, 2007

Equine flu Q & A

Australian authorities have confirmed that more horses outside Sydney have tested positive to the equine influenza virus.

Horses at Broughton Vale, near Berry, Moonbi, near Tamworth and Moree, and in Wyong, who had been in contact with the infected Centennial Park horses are confirmed as having the horse flu virus.

NSW chief veterinary officer, Bruce Christie, said surveillance teams based at the State Disease Control Centre traced the suspect horses.

"All confirmed cases are being kept under stringent quarantine and closely monitored until they fully recover," Dr Christie said.

"The new cases highlight the critical need for movement restrictions as just one infected horse can infect others with the virus.

"To eliminate the spread of EI it's essential horse owners support the current standstill which has been in place since Saturday."

Horses, ponies and donkeys can not be moved anywhere in the State and restrictions are in place for horse floats and trucks which can spread EI via infected material.

Owners are urged to keep a close eye on their animals for symptoms of equine influenza and report any signs of the disease.

"This follows advice from the Local Disease Control Centre that a farrier had recently shod a horse suffering flu-like symptoms then gone on to shoe horses on other properties," Dr Christie said.

"We are hearing of incidents where farriers, horse dentists and others are moving on and off horse properties without taking adequate hygiene precautions to prevent the spread of EI.

"Although people do not suffer from equine influenza, they can transfer the infection between horses.

"The influenza virus can survive on skin, fabrics and the surface of saddlery and horse equipment. But it is easily killed by cleaning and disinfection.

"Personal hygiene and clean equipment are critically important so disease is not spread.

"This means showering or washing exposed skin with soap and water, removing and washing clothing after exposure to the horses and cleaning and disinfecting footwear.

"Vehicles and floats also need to be cleaned and disinfected. The virus is readily killed by common disinfectants and soaps.

Frontline posts are being established at Scone, Moonbi, Parkes, Berry and North-west Sydney to better manage the outbreak and reinforce communications with the Local Disease Control Centre.

NSW Department of Primary Industries has assembled an arsenal of more than 150 staff including vets, support staff, laboratory technicians, mapping and data experts and has enlisted the assistance of 135 Rural Lands Protection Board vets and stock inspectors and 30 private vets from the Australian Veterinarian Reserve to fight the spread of EI.


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