Australia Flu Inquiry: Groom Says Officials Not Concerned by Sick Horse

The outbreak of equine influenza in Australia came about from an apparent lack of concern about horses with elevated temperatures and poor record keeping, according to a groom who worked at the Eastern Creek quarantine facility. The cost of the influenza outbreak in New South Wales and Queensland is estimated to be about Aus$3.94 million a day, according to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

The spread of influenza out of Eastern Creek has been attributed by Australian officials to people not following disinfection guidelines.

Coolmore groom James Carey told an inquiry headed by Retired High Court Judge Ian Callinan that at 7 a.m. on the morning the Coolmore stallions had arrived at Eastern Creek, Encosta de Lago (the index case) had "an elevated temperature of 38.6 degrees Celsius (101.5 F), a slight cough, and a nasal discharge."

However, Carey explained, he'd had no experience with equine influenza in Ireland (where horses are vaccinated against the virus) and did not consider it as a potential cause of Encosta de Lago's illness.

Over the next few days, the horses in the immediate vicinity of the affected horses started showing similar clinical signs, according to Carey.

He said temperatures of all horses at Eastern Creek were routinely taken twice a day and recorded in a diary, as well as in chalk on the outside of each stallion's stable door, but he saw no evidence of Australian Quarantine & Inspection Service staff taking interest in the temperature records until the outbreak occurred.

Carey also said a log book grooms were supposed to sign every time they left and re-entered the quarantine station was not always used because it could not be located.

Carey explained: "The book that was supposed to be used for the grooms to sign in and out was kept in the common area of the grooms' quarter. There were 15 guys sharing the common room and the book might sometimes be near a cooking pot, then might be under six magazines, and you might not see it for days."

The independent inquiry conducted by Callinan began Nov. 13 and is expected to include testimony from more than 100 witnesses.

For more information on the inquiry see www.TheHorse.com/ViewArticle.aspx?ID=10837.

(Originally published at BloodHorse.com.)  

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Ric Chapman

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