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Queensland cut in two in fight against equine flu

September 13, 2007

Queensland is today officially carved into two equine influenza zones as part of the fight to control the disease.

The state now has a control zone and a restricted zone.

"These zones will facilitate future changes to the movement conditions as we become increasingly more confident that the influenza virus is limited to the south-east of the State and the Darling Downs," a spokesman said.

Properties located in the control zone are currently considered at a lower risk of equine fluspreading.

In a new development as part of the two-zones, the permit system in place for the control zone - for horses outside the south-east corner of Queensland and the Darling Downs - will allow horse movements within the same shire and to properties owned by the same person.

Graphic of the zones (gif, 91KB)

A permit, however, must still be obtained from the state's Department of Primary Industries.

The restricted zone, which is South-East Queensland up to Gympie, west through the Darling Downs to Chinchilla and the border shires to Mungindi, has no changes to movement restrictions.

Horses cannot move between the zones.

In worst-affected New South Wales, chief veterinary officer Ian Roth offered encouraging words, despite the tally of infected horses approaching 5000.

"There are no surprises in the 410 infected properties that we are now seeing, as these could all be traced to movements from the initial outbreaks," he said.

"There has been a small amount of lateral spread from infected properties, which is mostly horse-to-horse contact - that's why we have asked owner to keep horses away from boundary fences.

"There are plenty of negative results coming through the testing system which is encouraging. Today, we have received advice that eight horses at Manilla and another four at Gunnedah have tested negative."

Mr Roth praised horse owners for their efforts in helping contain the virus.

"Everything possible is being done to help affected horse owners and stop the disease in its tracks," he said.

"We recognise that some owners will be inconvenienced for the greater good of the whole horse industry and we understand the tough situation they are in.

"The programme is relying on the industry doing its part to report sick horses, to observe the restrictions on movement and to follow good hygiene practices to prevent the spread of the disease.

"We are asking people who are concerned about the health of their horse to contact their own veterinarian in the first instance, and to contact the Tamworth frontline post on 6763 1401 if they have been unsuccessful."

He stressed that efforts to stop the spread of the disease were working.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries has made video footage of horses affected by equine influenza available online. Its aim is show horse owners monitoring their own animals what symptoms to look for. The footage shows horses exhibiting mild respiratory symptoms,including sneezing and coughing.

Meanwhile, animal handlers at Sydney's Easter Creek quarantine station, believed to be the source of the outbreak, regularly left the centre without taking proper cleaning precautions, an MP has alleged.

Labor frontbencher Simon Crean alleged in Parliament that a number of handlers at the facility regularly left for dinner at a nearby tavern without removing their work clothing and showering.

In other news, a bill has been introduced into the Australian parliament empowering retired High Court judge Ian Callinan to under take his commission of inquiry into the outbreak.



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