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Flu outbreak threat to horse racing.

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DAFF07/128PM - 25 August 2007

Flu outbreak threat to horse racing

New South Wales and Commonwealth authorities have immediately implemented measures to contain an exotic disease outbreak - suspected of being influenza - among racehorses in NSW.

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Peter McGauran, said today the outbreak was the most serious disease threat Australia’s horseracing industry had ever faced.

“Australia has never before had an exotic disease outbreak in horses, and our highest priority is to contain the disease, which has currently been isolated to 11 horses in a facility at Centennial Park in Sydney,” Mr McGauran said.

“We are still waiting on the results of further tests being conducted at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory at Geelong to determine if the disease is equine influenza (EI).

“All of NSW is now a control zone. This means that any horse movements within NSW or interstate will be strictly controlled by the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

“The outbreak has meant that race meetings in NSW have been cancelled. However, the impact of the disease outbreak has far wider implications, with horses playing a huge role in rural Australia, from on-farm use, to agricultural shows and pony clubs.

“The NSW Government and racing industries have responded swiftly and resolutely to the diagnosis and are doing everything humanly possible to contain the disease.

“The Consultative Committee on Exotic Diseases - comprising Commonwealth and State chief veterinary officers, Biosecurity Australia, AQIS and key stakeholders - met at 10am today by teleconference to determine further steps to be taken at both the State and national level.

“My Department has a coordinating role in managing the outbreak of the disease and they will provide NSW with whatever assistance they require.

“Each State is responsible for managing outbreaks such as this at the property level.

“Australia has international obligations to report any exotic disease outbreak and we expect other countries may now tighten their quarantine arrangements for horses coming from Australia,” Mr McGauran concluded.

Further media inquiries:

Minister McGauran's office: Ben Houston 02 6277 7520