Australia Equine Flu Inquiry Wraps Up

Leaders of an inquiry into Australia's billion-dollar equine influenza outbreak finished taking evidence Thursday after five months and testimony from 200 witnesses.

Former High Court judge Ian Callinan, who will issue his report by April 25, heard evidence from senior personnel at the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, which was criticized for its management structure and lack of clear lines of responsibility.

Equine influenza was first detected in Australia last August and spread quickly among horse populations in New South Wales and Queensland states.

Horse movements were stopped and racing was halted. The cost of the outbreak was estimated at as much as $1 billion AU ($900 million USD).

Inquiry lawyer Tony Meagher said the likely source of the virus was a shipment of horses which arrived from Japan on Aug. 8. It included mares and stallions, some of which were offloaded in Melbourne before the remaining horses traveled to Sydney and subsequently the Eastern Creek quarantine station, where the virus escaped into the general horse population.

Among those to give evidence at the inquiry were grooms, farriers, and veterinary surgeons who took care of the overseas stallions at Eastern Creek. Most said they were aware of protocols regarding the handling of horses at the station but because the rules were not always enforced, they were not always followed.

For more see Australia Flu Inquiry Leaders Searching for Quarantine, Outbreak Link.

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The Associated Press

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