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Poll shows strong support for equine flu eradication

October 30, 2007

A poll has shown overwhelming support for efforts to eradicate equine influenza from Australia.

The online survey by the Australian Horse Industry Council showed that 89% of the 5632 respondents supported eradication efforts.

The poll, taken over five days last week, showed 87% of respondents do not want to live with the disease in Australia. The results revealed that 61% did not believe the vaccine should be provided outside affected areas.

The AHIC said the response rate was 70.4%, well above the average 21% response rate usually found in online surveys.

Of those who replied to the survey, 37.4% (2106 people) were from New South Wales, 24.7% (1390) from Victoria, and 21% (1184) from Queensland. Their equine interests were spread between dressage, breeding, pony club and agistment.

The poll results were announced as containment efforts continued across New South Wales and Queensland.

In NSW, more than 41,000 horses have fallen victim to the disease, on nearly 5200 properties across the state.

The vaccination programme in buffer zones in both states is continuing, with NSW authorities extending the buffer zone into the Blue Mountains at the weekend. The new vaccination zone includes the parishes of Callaghan, Scott and Walcha.

The cost of eradication efforts in the state so far have been put at $A17.5 million.

Testing in seven areas is under way to determine if previously infected areas are clear of the disease. Such testing is likely to take up to two weeks before an all-clear can be given.

Meanwhile, horse owners have been warned that time is running out to move horses into the purple zones, specially set up to allow breeding operations to continue in key areas.

Horse owners have until midnight on October 31 to move their horses into the zone, after which entry will be prohibited. Horses that enter the zone will not be allowed out until authorities give clearance.

NSW officials are also asking Sydney residents who travel to out-of-town riding schools and horse properties to take all necessary biosecurity measures.

"These people, just as much as their country cousins, must take the right precautions to ensure they don't unwittingly spread horse flu into new areas," said Minister for Primary Industries Ian Macdonald.

"Our message to people leaving the city and coming into contact with horses is keep your wits about you and take the recommended biosecurity steps to decontaminate. Whatever you do make sure you're not the one spreading EI to a healthy horse."

Mr Macdonald said it is clear that some equine flu infection has been the result of human transfer.

NSW deputy chief veterinary officer Ian Roth said household detergents and disinfectants easily kill the virus. The key is to get people to practise strict hygiene.

"You need to wash or shower thoroughly and put on clean clothes before you have any contact with horses, ponies or donkeys," he said. "Don't even think of patting a pony unless you've first thoroughly decontaminated.

"Make sure you wash immediately after any contact with horses."

In other news, property owners within 20km of the Queensland border from Bonshaw to Old Koreelah are being asked to contact the Tenterfield Equine Influenza Vaccination Centre on (02) 6736 5127 to regarding the vaccination programme in the area.

"We have already contacted a lot of people in the area and we are also sending out a leaflet to roadside mail boxes inviting people to contact us about the horses they have on their property," said NSW deputy chief veterinary officer Steve Dunn.

More than 240 horses on properties near Jennings and Liston have already been vaccinated for equine influenza as NSW builds a buffer along the Queensland border to stop the spread of infection into NSW.

"We are taking into account high traffic crossings to Queensland, including Wallangarra, natural buffers such as national parks and the level of disease pressure immediately across the border in Queensland."

Mr Dunn said the gazetted area of the Queensland border vaccination buffer extends from Texas in the west across to the coast, but not all horses in the area will be vaccinated.

"We have gazetted a larger area to give us the flexibility to vaccinate where there is a risk of spread from Queensland," he said.

Mr Dunn said the Queensland border buffer was playing a very important role protecting the north coast from infection.

Horse owners in the buffer east of Tamworth have also been requested to register their horses for vaccination.

Veterinary officer Roth said horses in the Bowling Alley Point, Duncan's Creek, Dungowan, Mulla Creek and Piallamore areas are set to receive their vaccinations this week.

"Horse owners can easily register any horses, ponies, mules and donkeys by calling the Armidale local vaccination centre, (02) 6772 2366 or the EI hotline, 1800 675 888," he said.

"Up to five veterinary teams are working to complete vaccinations in the buffer with the support of local staff from the NSW Department of Primary Industries and Rural Lands Protection Board.

Nearly 2000 horses have so far been vaccinated in the buffer which extends from Manilla to Bendemeer, across to Limbri and south to Nundle.



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