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1 April 1998
Test results from overseas indicate that the horse condition which has been dubbed 'Balclutha Horse Syndrome' is not caused by an exotic disease.
The results from Pirbright in Britain were negative for all serious exotic diseases tested for. These included tests for versicular stomatitis and versicular exanthema.
Initial results from further virus isolation tests carried out at Plum Island in the United States for exotic viruses have also been negative.
The overseas results confirm the results from preliminary tests carried out in at MAF's central animal health laboratory at Wallaceville. The only positive result returned was for equine herpes in one horse. This is considered to be a possible cause of the condition, but has not been confirmed.
Equine herpes is endemic (i.e. well-established and widespread) in this country and around the world. It can be triggered in horses by the stress of being put in new surroundings and with unfamiliar horses.
In early March, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry isolated two neighbouring properties near Balclutha, while it investigated an unexplained ailment among horses there.
Of the 29 horses on one property, 15 had small shallow lesions on their tongues and gums, and two had small, coldsore-like blisters, on their gums. Three horses on the adjacent property all had lesions in their mouths. The horses in question have remained otherwise healthy and blood tests from them were normal.
In light of the overseas test results, restricted place notices on the properties have now been lifted.
It is Ministry's policy to carry out routine investigations whenever animals suffer unexplained illness or ailments.
Media inquiries to:
Dr Barry O'Neil, Chief Veterinary Officer, MAF Regulatory Authority (04) 474 4128
Debbie Gee, Director, Corporate Communications, (04) 474 4258