The equine influenza (horse flu or "EI") outbreak in Australia is currently contained and is on track for early eradication, government officials said today in an official announcement.
Australia's Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr. Andy Carroll said that due to successful control programs undertaken by New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland (QLD) veterinary authorities, the actions of Australian horse industries and individual horse owners, the disease is contained and large populations of horses have fully recovered.
"Since reaching a high of some 10,000 infected premises in October/November last year , we now have less than 1000 infected premises indicating that our strategy in combating the disease has been highly successful," Dr. Carroll said.
The number of infected premises is continuing to rapidly decrease with no new detections of the disease reported since December 22nd.
"This success will increasingly allow non-risk horses to move more freely around Australia and combined with the use of vaccination, to participate more freely in horse sales and other events," Dr. Carroll said. "This is a great development in getting our horse industry and horse sports back on track."
Importantly, the Australian racing industry has announced that yearling sales will go ahead, offering a large selection of quality horses, as in previous years. Arrangements for the re-opening of Australia's export market are progressing with Biosecurity Australia and the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service negotiating conditions with Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Iran, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.
Macau has provided amended conditions for the importation of horses and the Philippines have agreed to conditions for horses purchased at the upcoming sales.
The United States, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland and the Republic of Korea continue to import horses from Australia in accordance with conditions in place prior to the outbreak.
Dr. Carroll said that while the control of the outbreak is good news for all horse enthusiasts, adherence to biosecurity and movement restriction arrangements are still the keys to successfully eradicating the disease.
"We are winning the battle against the disease and we are increasingly optimistic that horse flu will be eradicated much earlier than previously expected. But, it only takes one person to do the wrong thing and we could face a major setback," Dr. Carroll said.