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21-06-2008 - Equine Influenza: critical lessons learnt

Equine Influenza: critical lessons learnt

Monday 26th May 2008

The outbreak of the Equine Influenza (EI) virus highlighted the need for increased investment in biosecurity and demonstrates the vital role veterinarians play in Australia’s biosecurity both now and in the future, Dr James Gilkerson says in a paper to be presented at the annual conference of the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA).

Dr James Gilkerson praised the industry, veterinarians (both private and government), owners, riders, racing bodies and the many other equine groups, for working hard to manage the outbreak and eradicate EI from Australia so quickly.

“Australia is one of the few countries in the world that has managed to eradicate EI following an outbreak, with the last reported infection premise reported just four months after the outbreak was declared.

“The activation of the AUSVETPLAN with movement restrictions contained the outbreak and enabled EI to be restricted to two states. With the subsequent introduction of a zoning system to facilitate business continuity, some amelioration of the financial impact was possible. Selection of an effective vaccine and its rapid emergency use registration meant that within 40 days, its use was combined with the development of strategic buffer zones to contain and ultimately eradicate EI,” said Dr Gilkerson.

The AVA and its special interest group, Equine Veterinarians Australia (EVA) played a vital role in communication with veterinarians throughout the outbreak. They had significant input into the management of the response, especially into the selection of the vaccine and its strategic use.

There are now areas that must be examined closely to improve Australia’s preparedness in responding to disease incursions. These include a review of the quarantine system, improved communication of decisions from the regulators to industry in general and possible adoption of vaccine banks for immediate use in any future outbreak.

Dr Diane Sheehan, President of the AVA, says it was extremely fortunate that the EI virus did not have a high mortality, and it was not a zoonosis that would cause illness in humans.

“Veterinarians played a magnificent role in the identification, containment, control and ultimate eradication of EI and must continue to play a vital role in Australia’s future biosecurity,” says Dr Sheehan.

Dr James Gilkerson presents his paper at the AVA national conference on Thursday 29 May at 2:00pm at the Perth Convention Centre. The session focuses on public health aspects of the veterinary profession with particular reference to emerging disease responses.

Dr James Gilkerson is a Senior Lecturer in Veterinary Microbiology and Head of the the Equine Infectious Disease Laboratory at the University of Melbourne.

Download: AVA2008-050 Conference Equine Influenza - critical lessons learnt.pdf

Contact: Gillian Nalletamby, (02) 9431 5023/0439 638 898
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