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27-08-2007 - Veterinarians applaud MAF’s rapid action to prevent entry of equine influenza EDIA RELEASE
27 August 2007

The New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA) applauds the speed with which MAF Biosecurity New Zealand has acted to prevent equine influenza being brought into the country after its diagnosis in Australia.
“MAF rapidly closed the borders so that no further horses could enter the country,” says NZVA equine spokesperson Murray Brightwell. “MAF staff have also been tracing back the 100 or so horses that have come into New Zealand from Australia since the beginning of the month. So far it looks as if we have successfully kept the disease out.”
New Zealand is the last major horse producing country in the world that does not have equine influenza, which is endemic in all other countries with significant horse populations. The disease is seen as the greatest threat to the horse industry here.
“It’s the disease that we fear most,” says Dr Brightwell. “New Zealand horses would be highly susceptible as they have never been exposed to it. Equine influenza is highly contagious and if it did get here we would expect that it would spread rapidly and affect most of the horse population. It would be a nightmare.”
Dr Brightwell says although we appear to be free of equine influenza, horse owners should always be on the look out for the possible signs of infection.
“The virus causes typical flu signs and a high temperature. Owners should be concerned if a horse is off colour, stops eating and develops a dry hacking cough. Some horses get a runny nose and eyes and are stiff and sore. Although most will recover, it can take a long time, and young foals can develop pneumonia.”
He advises anyone concerned about a horse to contact their veterinarian or the MAF exotic disease hotline (0800 80 99 66) promptly.
“NZVA has been keeping its equine veterinarians up to date with regular communications. We are aware of our responsibility as the first line of defence in animal disease emergencies – rapid recognition and diagnosis are critical when we are dealing with any contagious disease,” he said.
ENDS
Contact: Murray Brightwell, telephone 027 493 4736


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