New Zealand appears to have escaped an outbreak of equine influenza, with MAF Biosecurity New Zealand (MAFBNZ) investigators finding no evidence of the disease thus far.
MAFBNZ is growing more confident about the country's EI-free status. Investigators yesterday completed blood sampling of all horses classified as high priority. Sampling of remaining properties will be completed by the end of the week.
No clinical signs of equine influenza have been found in either the imported horses or horses that have been in contact with the imported horses. To date, three horses have returned negative equine influenza results.
"We don't have any active investigations under way and are growing more confident as time passes. Test results are starting to trickle in and will confirm whether horses are free of the disease," said Acting Director Border Standards, Peter Thomson.
In the meantime, any horse with suspected symptoms of equine influenza will be investigated immediately and blood samples will be collected to rule out infection. Although horses that have never been exposed to the virus show symptoms rapidly, horses that have been vaccinated for the disease can carry the virus for up to two weeks and show little or no signs of illness themselves.
Horse owners need to be vigilant for signs of the disease. Anyone who suspects their horse may be showing symptoms of equine influenza should isolate the horse from other animals and contact their vet immediately or phone the MAFBNZ emergency hotline 0800 80 99 66.
MAFBNZ has 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 is being directed by MAFBNZ to a treatment facility for cleaning, disinfection and/or fumigation. Passengers entering New Zealand from Australia are being questioned as to their movements within the country. If they have come from or visited an infected area they are being questioned further and may have their personal luggage searched.
A comprehensive response plan has been prepared and two vaccines are registered for emergency use, should the disease be found here. There are currently no plans to vaccinate horses in New Zealand as a precautionary measure.