Australian State Extends Flu-Free Zone

The area of New South Wales (NSW), Australia, declared free of equine influenza was expanded an additional 2,800 square miles last week. This change significantly eases the transport restrictions placed on thousands of horses, said Ian Macdonald, NSW minister for Primary Industries in an official statement.

More than 95% of the state is now officially considered free of the virus. Macdonald said the government aims to remove all restrictions on transport by mid-March.

At the peak of outbreak, more than 41,000 horses were infected on more than 5,800 properties.

New South Wales chief veterinary officer Bruce Christie, BVSc, said that although there are no known active infections, it still remains crucial for horse owners to adhere to movement restrictions and report sick horses.

"We believe we have influenza under control and we are now working to prove it has been wiped out by testing thousands of horses to confirm there are no remaining pockets of infection," Christie said, adding that restrictions need to be enacted until such testing is completed. "It remains vital to keep checking horses for (influenza) and reporting sick horses, so that we can act swiftly and decisively if a new infection is located.

"In the unlikely event that a new infection is detected, we have contingencies in place that can be implemented locally without affecting the status of the rest of the state," Christie stated.

Horse owners in the zone declared free of influenza still need to complete and carry a Traveling Horse Statement when transporting their animals.

Macdonald said the government has spent more than $46 million AU ($42.6 million USD) containing equine influenza, which is considered a foreign animal disease in Australia. The flu was traced to a government quarantine center. More than 100,000 horses have since been vaccinated.

An official inquiry into how the virus entered the country and was able to spread is ongoing. For more on this see Australia Flu Inquiry Leaders Searching for Quarantine, Outbreak Link.

Full details on the influenza eradication plan and control zone changes are available at  

Want to learn more about equine influenza? presented a FREE hourlong live Webinar on equine influenza, sponsored by Intervet, on Feb. 28, 2008. Watch the webinar now!

About the Author

Erin Ryder

Erin Ryder is a former news editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care.

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