Queensland Equine Flu: Restrictions Could be Lifted by Christmas

The Queensland Government said in a statement released today that there is the possibility that free movement of horses within Queensland's red zone could be allowed by Christmas if its strategy to contain equine influenza to the southeast remains on track.

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Minister for Primary Industries and Fisheries Tim Mulherin said that the Christmas goal was only achievable if all Queensland residents involved in the equine industry played their part in ensuring all quarantine safeguards were adopted and upheld. He noted that human contact with horses and human failure to properly decontaminate posed the greatest threat of equine influenza spreading beyond the red zone.

The Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries has created a buffer zone (shown as a yellow line on the map at right) in the southeast around the main area of infection. Veterinarians are vaccinating all horses in the buffer zone, and Mulherin said they expect it to be fully effective around late December, after the administration of the second vaccine dose.

"During this time, we will be trying to protect as much as possible high value horses and large horse populations within the red zone. We will also look to contain the spread of the disease within existing clusters in the red zone by strategic vaccination of inner buffers," Mulherin said.

"At this point, all things going to plan, we are looking at freeing up movements by Christmas this year. But to achieve this it is important to keep movement restrictions in place and maintain high biosecurity measures to ensure the buffers and the other vaccination program is not compromised," Mulherin said. "I have asked my Department to look at ways to increase the security and surveillance of the border between the red and green zones."

While movement restrictions would be loosened in the red zone at Christmas, strict controls between the red and green zones would remain in place.

As of today, there are 928 infected properties in Queensland.

A new steering committee established to help the sport and recreation horse industry get back on its feet also met today.

The steering committee includes representatives from the Horse Industry Council (Queensland), Equestrian Queensland, Pony Club Association, Sport and Recreation Queensland, the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, Communities, and Tourism, Regional Development.

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