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Make your equine-flu views known - horse council

September 28, 2007

Australia's Horse Industry Council is urging horse owners to make their views known on horse flu, saying "big money" thoroughbred racing and breeding interests are getting preferential treatment.

The call came as the first shipment of vaccine landed in Sydney last night and is expected to be pressed into use as early as this afternoon.

The council, in its daily emailed update, suggested New South Wales Department of Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald "is receiving extreme pressure from requests from the thoroughbred racing and breeding interests".

"The Minister is essentially supportive but needs some evidence to balance the pressure from the big-money lobby. No matter where you are, this is important."

People needed to contact the mInister urgently, the council said.

"We would not ask you to do this if it was not highly important and urgent."

The council urged people to explain their involvement with horses and whether they derived any income from them. This, said the council, would give the Minister an indication of the range of people involved outside racing.

The council suggested owners "object to the preference being given to thoroughbred interests" and urged owners to encourage the Minister to continue to control and eradicate influenza in the state.

"This is a national programme and the control depends on NSW successfully controlling the disease. You support the idea of buffer zones and strategic vaccination to contain the disease.

"That if the disease is declared as endemic to Australia you, as a recreational owner, will be forced to vaccinate your horses and that because your horses are not as valuable as a racehorse the cost to you will be proportionally higher.

"That if Governments decide to call off the disease control effort without the support of the majority of horse owners, the Australian Horse Industry Council would be justified in refusing to pay any costs of disease control as required under its Cost Sharing Agreement.

The first consignment of 20,000 doses of equine influenza vaccine arrived at Sydney Airport at 7pm yesterday and was expected to clear Customs overnight.

Federal Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran said the vials were to be transported to a facility in Sydney where each vial will be individually bar-coded.

"The bar coding is a requirement of the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) to provide complete traceability of the vials," he said.

"The 20,000 vaccines will complete being bar-coded [this morning] and the vaccines will be immediately shipped to the state vaccination control centres in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.

"Of the 20,000 vaccines arriving in the first instalment tonight, it is my intention that 7940 will be distributed to New South Wales, 7940 to Queensland, and 4100 to Victoria. Twenty vaccines will be sent to the Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong for scientific reference purposes."

The vaccination control centres will release the vaccine for use as required by each state's chief veterinary officer.

"There will be strict documentary controls so that every dose used can be accounted for.

"All horses in the buffer zones in New South Wales and Queensland will be vaccinated and as many high-value horses at risk will receive priority for vaccination," Mr McGauran said.

The first Victorian horses to be vaccinated will be entrants in the spring racing carnival.

He expected vaccinations to be begin this afternoon.

"Additional vaccines will be arriving in Australia within a fortnight."

Meanwhile, NSW deputy chief veterinary officer Steve Dunn said poor human hygiene was causing the spread of equine influenza to unexpected locations.

Strict biosecurity was essential for every person coming into contact with horses, he said.

"People visiting other properties or venues with horses should shower, wash their hair, blow their noses and put on clean clothes and shoes before they enter a new site.

"EI is easily destroyed by thorough cleaning and disinfection with household detergent, soap, bleach or citric acid."

In other news, the Victorian Government says it will continue to push for 15,000 equine influenza vaccines to be distributed to Victorian horses. Victoria's chief veterinary Officer Hugh Millar confirmed he had written to the Mr McGauran putting the case that Victoria requires 15,000 vaccines.

There are also concerns the virus could force suspension of racing on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, with outbreaks already reported at Pilton and Ma Ma Creek on the Darling Downs, and another suspected at Beerwah.



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