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Benefits considered as equine flu hits livelihoods

September 2, 2007

Equine flu Q & A

The Australian government is considering introducing a special benefit for people whose livelihoods have been hit by the equine influenza crisis.

A similar scheme was introduced after Cyclone Larry in Queensland, involving wage subsidies. It was hoped such subsidies - which amounted to $A270 a week in the cyclone's aftermath - would keep people in the horse industry until the flu outbreak was over.

Federal authorities have already announced a $A4 million emergency assistance package for those affected, but Labor and racing leaders have criticised the size of the fund.

Meanwhile, more cases have been reported. There are now 20 restricted areas across New South Wales, which is worst affected, with another racetrack now under lockdown.

Hawkesbury, north-west of Sydney, which is home to thoroughbred trainers, has had a horse test positive to the disease. It is believed to have spread there from a veterinary clinic just 200m away, where eight horses are reported to have the disease.

The clinic was hit when a pleasure horse was taken there for treatment.

Authorities in NSW and Queensland are now a week into control measures. NSW's Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald said efforts would be maintained throughout the weekend to contain further spread of the disease.

"We need to get in front of this disease as fast as possible," he said.

"We have 20 restricted areas across the State, and are working closely with owners and the horse industry to carry out thorough tracing efforts.

"It is vital that all horse owners adhere to the indefinite standstill of all horses, and conduct necessary disinfectant measures after having any contact with their horses."

There are now 70 known properties across the state with confirmed cases of the highly contagious respiratory disease. About 700 horses are confirmed as having the disease, but authorities believe more than 2000 probably have it.

Authorities in NSW are urging horse owners in restricted areas to assist in efforts to stop the spread by registering and monitoring their horses. Those who have not yet registered are requested to do so immediately.

NSW Department of Primary Industries deputy chief veterinary officer Ian Roth said the sooner all horses, ponies and donkeys in restricted areas were registered and the spread of the virus mapped, the sooner effective control will occur.

Registrations can be made online, and restricted-area maps and location information are also available.

Horse owners in RAs who find any signs of the disease must contact their own veterinarians or the Local Disease Control Centre veterinarians on (02) 4640 6561.

Infected property locations in NSW include Parkes, Berry, Moonbi, Muswellbrook, Kurrajong, Glossodia, Cattai, Medowie, Hornsby, east Maitland, Eagleton, Lake Macquarie, Terry Hie Hie, Timbumburi, Randwick, Moree, the southern Sydney region and Narrabri. In Queensland, the affected properties are at Warwick, Minden, Rosewood, Kenmore and Brookfield, all west of Brisbane.

While the number of cases grows, there have been some bright spots.

Dog racing has been permitted at several NSW tracks, but horse facilities were roped off and the public prevented from entering.

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