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Precautions against exotic horse disease

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A ban has been placed on the importation of horses into

Australia via the Panama Canal. .

The Commonwealth Minister for Health, Senator Sir Kenneth

Anderson, said today that the ban had been imposed because of

the outbreak of the disease known as Venezuelan equine

encephalomyelitis (VEE) among horses in Texas and Mexico. The

disease had also occurred in Central America, and northern South

America. .

The ban would affect imports of horses from the United

Kingdom and Ireland, which were the only countries other than

New Zealand, from which Australia permitted their direct importĀ­


The importation of horses from New Zealand would not be


Senator Anderson said that VEE was a serious disease with

a high mortality among horses.

It was carried by insec't vectors such as mosquitoes and

sandflies and could also be transmitted to man.

Senator Anderson said that the ban on the shipment of

horses to Australia via the Panama Canal would make it difficult

to import horses from the United Kingdom.

2 .

This was because, except for New Zealand, horses could only-

enter Australia after serving a period of six months residence

in the United Kingdom. To get to Australia from the United Kingdon

they had previously to travel by sea via the Panama Canal because

of restrictions which prevented them coming via any port on the

African continent or the Mediterranean area. These restrictions

were because of the danger of horses contracting African horse

sickness while in transit.

Neither African horse sickness or VEE has been known to

occur in Australia. ;

Senator Anderson said that the introduction of YEE to .

Australia would have serious consequences. Australia's horse

population was susceptible to the disease and there was an

abundance of suitable insect vectors in this country.

Introduction of the disease would have severe repercussions

in Australia's sheep'and cattle industries which were very

dependent on horses for control of stock. If the disease gained

entry, horse owners could suffer substantial losses and would need

to vaccinate regularly.

The thoroughbred and trotting industries would also be

severely affected. Australia exported horses to the United States,

South East Asia and other countries and this trade would probably

cease if VEE became established here.

Senator Anderson said that the New Zealand Government had

taken similar action to Australia in the matter. This parallel

action by the two countries was to ensure the maintenance of free

movement of horses between Australia and New Zealand.

3 .

Senator Anderson said that the ban on the shipment of

horses via the Panama Canal would not prevent their importation

from the United Kingdom via a direct route. However, this would

require a ship to travel direct via the Cape of Good Hope or Cape

Horn without calling at any port on the African Continent, the

United States, Central or South America,

Australia and New Zealand have accepted horses from the

U.S.A. and other countries after six months residence in the U.K.

Because of the present epidemic, horses from countries where VEE

is present will not qualify for entry to Australia or New Zealand

if landed in the U.K, after July 1, 1971. This residential

qualification will be reviewed if the outbreak situation


Senator Anderson said the ban would last until quarantine

authorities were satisfied there was no further risk to horses

travelling to Australia through the Panama Canal,

Canberra, August 9, 1971 Dept. No. 42