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More than 2000 NSW horses may have equine flu

September 1, 2007

Equine flu Q & A

Five hundred horses on 53 properties across New South Wales are confirmed as having equine influenza. Authorities suspect another 2335 horses have the disease on a further 213 properties.

Infected properties:

• Infected properties in New South Wales are at Aberdeen, Arcadia, Berry, Cattai, Charmhaven, Clarendon, Cooranbong, Eagleton, Eastern Cree, Glenhaven, Glenorie, Gloucester, Glossodia, Kulnurra, Kurrajong, Londonderry, McCullys Gap, Maitland, Moonbi, Moree, Moore Park, Mount Hunter, Muswellbrook, Palm Grove, Parkes, Pitt Town, Quakers Hill, Randwick, Raymond Terrace, Redfern, Scone, Terry Hie Hie, Timbumburi, Tintinhul and Wilberforce.

• Infected properties in Queensland are at Warwick, Minden, Rosewood, Kenmore and Brookfield, all west of Brisbane.

Two more horses at the Randwick stables of Anthony Cummings have tested positive to the disease, bringing the total to eight. The racecourse is locked down, affecting 700 horses housed in and around the track.

Horses at Randwick are now being exercised for their wellbeing, with confinement to stables considered unlikely to prevent spread of the highly contagious respiratory disease.

The course is likely to be under lockdown for two months.

The NSW Government has spent more than $1 million this week trying to contain the outbreak, according to Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald. "This figure will obviously increase.

"These are very difficult times for everyone and I would like to thank the thoroughbred industry, the harness racing industry and recreational horse owners for their support during this past week," he said.

"The NSW Government is doing everything possible to prevent the spread of this disease.

"We have intensified our efforts, and our priority is to stop this disease spreading and get the industry back on its feet. The standstill is working and everyone has been very co-operative.

"The welfare of animals is being carefully managed, with the RSPCA conducting regular inspections, where animals are locked down.

"Community support workers are visiting locations in regional areas including Parkes and Moonbi, to assist horse owners."

While hundreds of owners are hunkered down with their horses across the state, the best possible news was delivered yesterday to the owners of 87 horses who had attended the Shahzada endurance ride north of Wiseman's ferry on the Hawkesbury River.

Special permits allowing the owners to return their horses directly home and then place them in lockdown were granted, after a detailed veterinary risk assessment on potentially exposed horses from St Albans. These horses had been isolated in a very remote area since coming to attend the ride more than a week ago.

The horses have been monitored twice daily over the last seven days and shown no signs equine influenza.

Interstate horse owners must also get approval and a permit from the Chief Veterinarian in their home State to cross the NSW border.

More than 200 people were stuck at the site. They disinfected their equipment and vehicles as a precautionary measure before given clearance.

NSW's Deputy Chief veterinary officer Ian Roth said the latest confirmations of horse flu were restricted mainly to individual properties, reducing the disruption to horse owners' lives.

"Most of these horse owners will be able to maintain a reasonably normal routine, as long as they take the necessary quarantine precautions," he said.

"We know this continues to be a serious situation for everyone in the state's horse industry and those communities affected, and appreciate everyone's efforts to date.

"While of course it would be better if they didn't have an infected animal, at least they are in their home environment and not trying to cope with the situation from another location.

"It is, however, extremely important that any infected horse, or other horses on that infected property, does not leave the property. Infected horses need to be left where they are so they can recover and eliminate the virus."

In Queensland, there has been another positive test to the disease and five properties are now under quarantine.

However, tests are being done for possible cases in other areas, and results are awaited. Symptoms have been reported in horses at Pullenvale, Upper Brookfield, Bellbowrie and Moggill.

In other news in the last 24 hours:

Agriculture Minister McGauran said while the focus remained on containment, he had already ordered an investigation into how the virus got into Australia.

He said 14 investigators, mostly former police, were identifying what people, equipment and vehicles were involved in the initial inspection of the horses when they arrived from Japan.

"I have unleashed the full resources of the compliance section of my department," he told ABC radio. "We want to identify what went wrong so it can never happen again and so we can repair the breach."



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