by Dr Ron Glanville,
Chief Veterinary Officer
Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries
The latest figures show the Equine Influenza infection rate continues to slow.
It is clear that the vast majority of people have been doing the right thing by observing good biosecurity on their properties and complying with movement restrictions in the Red Zone.
I would like to sincerely thank every horse owner for being so patient and adhering to the rules. I know that there has been a lot of pain associated with this, but I'm also sure that there will be long term gain.
DPI&F's overall aim now is to suppress the epidemic as quickly as possible so that industry can get back on its feet. We are working on a number of strategies to help this happen.
Vaccines for an additional 26,000 performance and pleasure horses are now being made available.
The agreed priority groups for vaccination are:
Property owners that have had the infection can apply online at www.dpi.qld.gov.au to have their property status re-assessed and officially declared 'Resolved' or no longer infectious.
Criteria for assessment include clinical records and the number of days since the last horse developed clinical signs of horse flu. There are a number of options for how this can occur depending on the standard of the clinical records that were kept for individual properties. Depending on the option chosen, a property can be "resolved" either 30 days, 44 days, or 60 days after horses became infected.
If a property meets the criteria its status will be changed from 'Infected' to 'Resolved', which means the 'horses have recovered and are no longer regarded as infected and live virus is no longer present on the property'. The 'Resolved' status applies to the whole property, not to individual horses and will be important for future applications for movement permits.
Future movement conditions
A lot of work is being done in Queensland and nationally to determine future conditions for horses to move within particular zones and also across zones. The aim is to get the right balance between effective disease control and allowing industry to operate.
This is the direction DPI&F is heading in regard to some specific types of movements:
DPI&F already has a protocol that allows movements between studs (within the inner red zone) for breeding purposes. This relies on the studs being vaccinated or resolved. This protocol is in place irrespective of industry sector, hence a priority now is to ensure all remaining studs that need to be vaccinated receive approval.
Competitions and Sales
DPI&F is working with industry to develop systems to allow events to commence in the New Year. This needs to be done in a very careful way as events and sales are the easiest way to spread disease.
DPI&F already has a working protocol for sales within the Red Zone. However this relies on a 14 day quarantine period that is generally not practical for equestrian events. The approach to holding events is likely to include a number of 'tiers' of events based on risk, with higher levels of biosecurity being applied depending on whether it is a local event, a "within zone" event or an "across zone" event.
All horses will need to be vaccinated or resolved, at least for events within the Red Zone.
Movements out of the Red Zone
DPI&F is developing a protocol for moving horses from the Red to the Green Zone. This will require agreement at the national level and will involve a quarantine period in most cases.
The National Management Group, which is the national government-industry decision making body regarding overall strategy and funding for the response has re-confirmed that containment and eradication is the overall aim.
The national eradication cost has been revised to an upper limit of $72 million. To date $36 million has been invested in the national response.