New Zealand Tests Imports for Equine Flu

New Zealand biosecurity officials are retesting samples taken from horses imported directly from the United States to the Karaka quarantine facility due to conflicting test results that indicate the presence of equine influenza, the Sportsman of Australia has reported.

The racing and sports newspaper said 10 horses imported from the U.S. in late March have had conflicting test results for equine influenza. The horses tested negative prior to export but turned up positive when in quarantine in New Zealand.

All the horses appear healthy and have shown no symptoms of disease, Clive Gower-Collins, an executive with MAF Biosecurity New Zealand, told the Sportsman. "There is a strong indication that cross-contamination in the laboratory was the reason for the positive results," he said. "The laboratory will be conducting further tests (the weekend of April 5) to confirm that this is so."

The New Zealand horse population is not at risk, officials said.

Equine influenza is enzootic in the United States, Canada, Europe, Scandinavia, and South America (enzootic means constantly present though affecting only a small number of animals at any one time). Most other parts of the world have seen repeated outbreaks. The historic exceptions were Australia, New Zealand, and Iceland. Australia and New Zealand, which import and export horses, have mandatory vaccination and quarantine systems designed to stop the viral disease.

Australia's horse industry is recovering from that country's first outbreak of the virus, which occurred in late 2007. It is estimated this outbreak cost the industry there $1 billion AU ($900 million USD).

(Originally published at

About the Author

Tom LaMarra

Tom LaMarra, a native of New Jersey and graduate of Rutgers University, has been news editor at The Blood-Horse since 1998. After graduation he worked at newspapers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania as an editor and reporter with a focus on municipal government and politics. He also worked at Daily Racing Form and Thoroughbred Times before joining The Blood-Horse. LaMarra, who has lived in Lexington since 1994, has won various writing awards and was recognized with the Old Hilltop Award for outstanding coverage of the horse racing industry. He likes to spend some of his spare time handicapping races.

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