Australian Horse Industry Could Face Increased Disease Risk

Australian Horse Industry Could Face Increased Disease Risk

“The increased volume of international horses arriving on our shores since the (1980s) and the use of air travel have already brought equine influenza to Australia, while many more diseases wait patiently offshore," Gilkerson said.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

The Australian horse industry has historically been well protected from global disease threats due to the country’s isolated location. But with the increase in international movement of horses and changes in the climate, the threat is starting to become more real.

James Gilkerson, BVSc, BSc(Vet) Hons, PhD, who spoke at the Australian Veterinary Association’s conference May 28, said that there are several emerging threats at play.

“The increased volume of international horses arriving on our shores since the (1980s) and the use of air travel have already brought equine influenza to Australia, while many more diseases wait patiently offshore," he said. “Australia has thorough risk management procedures in place to minimize transfer of infectious diseases that travel to Australia with imported horses. But diseases that travel with insects and other animal species also have the potential to devastate the local horse industry.

“Changes to the Australian climate have resulted in changes in the geographical distribution of various insect species and the viruses that they carry," he continued. “In addition, as the areas around our major cities become more urbanized, and our domestic animals are being exposed to native animals, another category of disease threat emerges which is the jump of infectious diseases from one species to another.

“Changes in the geographical distribution of insects and other species as a result of climate change or urban expansion will play an important role in the likelihood of new outbreaks and will increase the difficulty of controlling eradicating diseases,” Gilkerson said. “And as people and their animals press outwards in high density areas into areas that were previously habitat for native animal species, there is an increased risk that infections of wild animals can be transferred to domesticated animals."

Gilkerson said, “We need to start preparing for these risks and put stronger plans in place to control and minimize a new disease outbreak to avoid a devastating effect on Australia’s horse industry. We need good solid research on what’s happening, as well as targeted government funding to prepare for these potentially damaging diseases we might face.”

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from TheHorse.com. Learn More

Free Newsletters

Sign up for the latest in:

From our partners