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Vet students learning at horse flu frontline

UQ students Paula Thomas, Jane Pollitt, Chelsea Salisbury and Jessica Peters with Australian Stockhorse Wistari Washington.

September 1, 2007

Equine flu Q & A

UQ graduates and students are leading the battle to contain the horse flu epidemic at the Morgan Park Equestrian Centre at Warwick.

UQ Equine Medicine Professor Chris Pollitt drove to Warwick on Monday to monitor the epidemic and help four UQ students, one of them Professor Pollitt's daughter, who had been competing at world cup qualifying events at Warwick with their horses.

Professor Pollitt said the students were not at risk but they might have to stay in Warwick for more than 30 days, caring for their horses, until they recover.

He said students were very worried about their horses and getting behind in their studies.

But those students who studied disease control and epidemiology were learning first hand how to manage highly contagious diseases such as horse flu.

"This is a better learning experience than any lecture or assignment I could do at uni," equine science student Chelsea Salisbury said.

UQ trained vets Julian Willmore of Brookfield and Janine Dwyer of Nerang were part of the veterinary team that has worked round the clock caring for sick horses.

Another UQ trained vet Nathan Anthony briefed horseowners daily about how the virus spread, how to diagnose the disease and how to treat them.

He said recuperation after symptoms passed would take 30-40 days and that training or working flu affected horses could have serious consequences.

"The veterinarians are treating the sickest horses with fever reducing drugs and antibiotics to control the symptoms of flu and limit the possible complication of bacterial pneumonia," Professor Pollitt said.

He said all 300 horses locked down in Warwick were expected to succumb to the virus.

Within five days of being stabled on the ground, 90 percent were coughing, had runny noses and fever.

UQ has temporarily closed all horse operations at its campuses to conform with primary industries regulations as the horse flu outbreak widens.

The University has several equine medicine and breeding experts who can comment about horse flu.

Equine medicine senior lecturer Dr Janene Kingston has research interests in equine exercise.

UQ Gatton equine and livestock health coordinator Dr Judy Cawdell-Smith, an expert in the thoroughbred breeding, said the outbreak was like a fireball through the horse community.

Dr Cawdell-Smith said breeders could lose a third of the breeding season and potentially have their mares running a month later in future years.

She said the in-demand stallions stuck in quarantine were already overstretched.


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