Equine Flu: Australia Sets Interim Importation Requirements

As equine influenza (EI) continues its spread through the infected areas of New South Wales and Queensland, Australian officials have ramped up the quarantine requirements for horses imported into the country.

According to updates released by Australia's Horse Industry Council, the first suspected case of EI was detected at Eastern Creek Quarantine Station in New South Wales on Aug. 17. Further cases were subsequently detected on other properties. The Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry strengthened quarantine requirements for new horses entering the country as of Sept. 28. These requirements were explained in a summary on the Department's Web site.

A working group, which included a representative from Biosecurity Australia, representatives of states/territories, and the horse industry, proposed some amendments to Australia's current quarantine policy. It was recommended that the following quarantine measures, in addition to the measures already in place, be implemented for horses imported from all countries except New Zealand, on an interim basis:

  • equine influenza vaccination--in addition to current equine influenza vaccination, booster vaccination to be required between 14 and 21 days of entering pre-export quarantine (PEQ);
  • diagnostic testing for equine influenza virus in PEQ and post-arrival quarantine (PAQ)--PCR testing for influenza A or equine influenza virus 7 to 10 days apart in PEQ with the last test within 4 days of departure, and PCR testing in PAQ on day 5;
  • duration of PAQ period -the quarantine period will be extended to 21 days (from 14 days) for horses imported permanently where they have undergone PEQ in different premises but become intermingled as one consignment on aircraft or in PAQ premises. The additional time in PAQ, together with the above mentioned testing, will assist in being able to detect any virus that may be circulating within the quarantine group; and
  • operation of quarantine premises--recommendations have been made for the strengthening of various operational guidelines, including additional measures for inspection of horses and facilities during PEQ and PAQ.

These measures include the option of testing for equine influenza during PEQ by antigen ELISA rather than PCR testing. This is the routine test performed by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) Reference Laboratory for equine influenza at Newmarket, in the United Kingdom.

The focus of the measures is to strengthen biosecurity arrangements during PEQ and PAQ. The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service will make arrangements for PEQ premises to be inspected with the competent authority of the exporting country prior to consignments being exported from any country.

The full requirements for horses being imported into Australia permanently can be viewed on the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry Web site.

As of Oct. 16, there are 4,602 infected properties in New South Wales, along with 1,220 infected properties in Queensland.

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