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NSW racehorses to get equine flu vaccine

October 9, 2007

All thoroughbred racehorses in New South Wales will now be vaccinated against equine flu as the disease jumps from racing centre to racing centre.

Recent outbreaks include one in the previously disease-free green zone, at Barmedman.

Authorities are appealing to people to exercise necessary hygiene precautions if they are required to move between properties with horses.

Outbreaks have been confirmed at Newcastle in NSW and Toowoomba in Queensland. An estimated 500 racehorses based around Newcastle's Broadmeadows track are now likely to catch the disease. A similar number train around Toowoomba's Clifford Park.

The vaccination programme for thoroughbreds in the state will cover an estimated 11,000 horses.

NSW has been allocated enough vaccine to inoculate about 45,000 horses.

Meanwhile, police in the state are promising a blitz on horse movements in and out of the purple breeding zones.

Deputy chief veterinary officer Steve Dunn said the patrols will specifically target decontamination of vehicles carrying horses such as horse floats and trucks to ensure they are complying with essential disinfection procedures.

"The blitz will continue until midnight, October 18, which is the final day horses can enter the purple zones for breeding purposes, to fit in with the equine industry calendar," he said.

"Police will also be checking that people are carrying their permits. The permit system now in place allows only stallions and mares to move into purple restricted areas for horse industry mating programmes."

It is a permit condition that all trucks carrying horses into or within purple zones visit the special disinfection centres in Scone before they leave.

They need to have their permit signed showing that inspection or disinfection has been carried out and that they are not transporting any horses or horse products.

Meanwhile, a series of community meetings began yesterday - part of a major campaign to tell the public about steps being taken to eradicate the disease.

The first of the meetings, in Narromine and Merriwa, were held yesterday.

Mr Dunn said management of the disease was at a crucial stage where the department was relying on the public's cooperation to stop its spread.

"It is clear from some outbreaks that people have played a part in spreading the disease, simply because they failed to carry out simple personal hygiene procedures after coming into contact with horses," he said.

"Therefore, we are looking at better ways to inform the public about the disease in the hope that people will do the right thing - it's about spreading the EI message, rather than the disease."

Mr Dunn said the department had already invested a huge effort into delivering information and key messages through all media outlets, the website, daily updates to the horse industry, and via the disease hotline.

"Despite this, we know people have a range of questions they would like to have answered, and it's important that we dispel any myths as well."

He said the topics to be discussed at the upcoming meetings would include changes to movement restrictions, zonings, buffer zone vaccinations, location of infections, personal hygiene, biosecurity and disinfection, testing procedures and details of how the outbreak is being managed.

Dates have been set for the Upper and Lower Hunter, Central West, Central Coast, South Coast Sydney/Southern Highlands, with others now being organised for the New England/North West and other locations.



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