Australian State Declared Officially Free of Equine Flu

Almost exactly six months after the horse industry in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, ground to a halt due to an outbreak of equine influenza, government officials today declared the state free of the virus.

"It's official, horse flu has now been eradicated from NSW," said Minister for Primary Industries Ian Macdonald in a statement.

For the first time since Aug. 25, 2007, horse owners are free to move their horses anywhere within the state, so long as they have a Traveling Horse Statement (a traceability document that provides a record of the horses being moved, their ownership, the route traveled, and any events the horses are attending).

"From today all permit and testing requirements for moving horses within the state have been lifted," Macdonald said. "The only remaining precautionary requirements to move a horse are prior notification with a Traveling Horse Statement and event registration."

The state's purple and red virus control zones--once heavily infected--were today abolished. They are now a part of a "minimal risk" green zone.

"This is a dramatic contrast to the dark days of the state-wide lockdown that stopped all horse movements and forced the cancellation of every horse event in NSW," Macdonald said. "I thank all parts of our horse sector--recreational and professional--for their support and assistance in stamping out the disease."

More than 47,000 horses on 6,000 properties have recovered from infection and no longer carry the disease.

Macdonald said today's declaration follows one of the largest exotic animal disease eradication campaigns ever undertaken.

"NSW conducted a massive campaign, on a scale never before seen in Australia, using the latest vaccine and laboratory testing technologies," he said. "Given the extensive spread of the (influenza) virus before it was detected and its highly contagious nature, we have succeeded in stamping out this disease in an extremely short time, if not record time."

South Africa is the only other country to have eradicated equine influenza. New Zealand and Iceland are the only countries to remain free of the disease.

As part of the eradication campaign, the NSW Government:

  • Vaccinated approximately 50,000 horses for control purposes;
  • Provided vaccine to vaccinate more than 13,000 horses;
  • Established more than 20 control and vaccination centers across NSW;
  • Enlisted a workforce of about 2,000;
  • Implemented a successful zoning system to free-up movements, allow the breeding season to be undertaken, and horse events to resume;
  • Implemented response utilizing multiple sectors of the government, including Rural Lands Protection Boards, NSW Police, RTA, State Emergency Service, Rural Fire Service and NSW Health.

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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