Outbreak: Australian Olympic Horses Vaccinated against Influenza

Vaccination of the horses shortlisted to represent Australia at the 2008 Olympics has begun following a special allocation of up to 100 doses of horse flu vaccine for high-value horses used in equestrian competition.

"Vaccine has been allocated so these horses have enough time to get back to full training and compete at an elite level in lead-up events," said Steve Dunn, New South Wales deputy chief veterinary officer.

"At the moment they are permitted to vaccinate only shortlisted horses in the high risk red zone that have not already become infected," Dunn said. "Vaccination will not stop them getting EI, but it will reduce the clinical signs and speed up recovery from the disease."

Equine Federation of Australia's NSW veterinary advisor Derek Major said immediate vaccination was the first step on a long road to Olympic competition.

"Although Olympic horses are not due in Hong Kong until next August we are working back on a tight timeline to make sure they will be competitive," Major said. "Selected horses will also have to be free from this disease in time for some to travel to New Zealand and Europe for further lead-up competition."

Dunn said accredited veterinarians had begun vaccinating horses on the central coast, south coast, southern highlands, and Hunter Valley.

Major said competition at Olympic qualifying events could not begin until the current movement restrictions within and between zones are eased.

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