Australian horse imports stopped until further notice

25 August 2007

MAF Biosecurity New Zealand announced this afternoon that it has halted all imports of horses from Australia upon receiving notification from the Australian Government that horses in New South Wales are suspected to have contracted equine influenza.

As a result, New Zealand is also likely to be asked to implement a ban on horse exports to New South Wales.

MAF Biosecurity New Zealand, Assistant Director General, Dr Barry O'Neil said New Zealand has moved quickly and adopted a cautionary approach, to what is an evolving situation.

"New Zealand is one of the few countries in the world that is free from Equine Influenza. MAF Biosecurity New Zealand has moved swiftly to put measures in place to protect our equine industry from this disease. We are working closely with the Australian authorities, the New Zealand equine industry and our veterinary association, and will review our position over the next two or three days, as more information comes to light."

All horses that have arrived in New Zealand since the beginning of August will be identified and their movements traced. MAF Biosecurity New Zealand has a comprehensive response plan in place, should the disease ever be found here.

Equine influenza is a highly contagious viral respiratory disease that spreads rapidly causing significant illness in horses. It is similar to other viral conditions which cause coughing and some discharge from a horse's nose. However, the influenza is more severe - horses develop a temperature and a dry, hacking cough.

Horses with Equine influenza become tired and do not eat, often for days. If there is nasal discharge it will begin clear but thicken.

The disease is spread by close contact between horses. Infected horses and contaminated equipment or people may spread the infection from farm to farm. The disease lasts several days with full recovery taking two to three weeks, although some horses may develop complications.

MAF Biosecurity New Zealand advises horse owners to be vigilant for signs of the disease. Anyone who suspects their horse may be showing symptoms of equine influenza should contact their vet immediately or phone the MAF Biosecurity New Zealand emergency hotline 0800 80 99 66.

Equine Influenza is not of human health concern.

For further information, contact:

Helen Keyes, Senior Communications Adviser,
04 894 0161,
029 894 0161,
Helen.keyes@maf.govt.nz

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