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Equine influenza conquered: Macdonald 28 Feb 2008

The Iemma Government today declared victory over equine influenza (EI) almost exactly six months after the State’s horse industries ground to a halt as a result of the outbreak.

“It’s official, horse flu has now been eradicated from NSW,” Minister for Primary Industries Ian Macdonald announced today.

“This fantastic news means that from today all permit and testing requirements for moving horses within the State have been lifted.

“The only remaining precautionary requirements to move a horse are prior notification with a Travelling Horse Statement (THS) and event registration.

“The once heavily infected purple zone and the Illawarra red zone have been abolished and replaced with a minimal risk green zone. All other areas join the white zone.

“For the first time since August 25 last year horse owners are now free to move their horses anywhere within the State with a THS.

“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.

“I thank all parts of our horse sector – recreational and professional – for their support and assistance in stamping out the disease.

“Only a few months ago there were EI infected horses on thousands of NSW properties and at its peak over 200 new property infections each day.

“Tens of thousands of tests have been carried out and today we cannot find one single EI infected animal.

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

Minister 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,” Minister Macdonald said.

“More than 63,000 horses have been vaccinated with the latest genetically modified vaccine.

“To date 128,000 laboratory tests have been conducted to both locate infection and demonstrate that the virus has gone.

“There have been 50,000 tests this year alone, with the majority in the highest risk purple zone where more than half of all horse properties were infected.

“The Department of Primary Industries has been unable to find any infection since December, despite actively searching for isolated pockets of virus on more than 10,000 properties in the purple zone.

“All States and the Commonwealth have agreed that the purple and red zones could be relegated to minimum risk green, and the other 97 percent of NSW to EI free white.

“Given the extensive spread of the EI 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 EI. New Zealand and Iceland are the only other EI free countries.

“Many international experts were pessimistic of our chances, but again we have demonstrated our proud history of successfully eradicating animal diseases.

“As a precaution, NSW will continue surveillance and testing of sick horses until we can be sure we have won the battle. It therefore remains vital to report sick horses.

“Travelling Horse Statements and event registrations will continue in the interim in the highly unlikely event an isolated pocket of virus is found.”

As part of the EI eradication campaign the NSW Government:

a.. Vaccinated approximately 50,000 horses for control purposes; b.. Provided vaccine for horse industry sectors to vaccinate more than 13,000 horses; c.. Established more than 20 control and vaccination centres across NSW; d.. Enlisted an EI workforce of about 2,000; e.. Implemented a successful four colour zoning system to free-up movements, allow the breeding season to be undertaken and horse events to resume; f.. Implemented a whole of Government response including Rural Lands Protection Boards, NSW Police, RTA, State Emergency Service, Rural Fire Service and NSW Health.

Full details are available at www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/equine-influenza or by calling the NSW EI hotline on 1800 675 888.

Published: Feb 29, 2008 2:29pm by DeanneM.

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