Horse movement sparking flu fears

By GEOFF ROUNDS

TWEED River Jockey Club secretary-manager Steve Huggins has allayed fears that horses were illegally moved into the Murwillumbah Racecourse this week.

Six racehorses have been relocated from their property in Dulgaigun to the Murwillumbah Racecourse despite a state-wide ban on horse movement due to the outbreak of the Equine Influenza (EI).

But Mr Huggins confirmed yesterday that approval was given from the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) to move the horses last Thursday.

"Yes, I can confirm that six horses were moved...there is the necessary DPI approval and paperwork for them to be shifted," Mr Huggins said.

"The horses in question have also worked at the track already. As far as we're concerned it's all legal.

"There's been a bit of talk and a few rumours around the place that all this was done illegally. "But I can tell you that's not the case." EI has never occurred in Australia before.

Yesterday it was announced that 10,000 shots of equine influenza vaccine would be imported for use in NSW.

"The vaccine represents the next phase in the campaign to eradicate the exotic horse flu, which has now infected more than 1000 properties in NSW," State Primary Industries Minister Ian McDonald said.

According to the DPI EI is a highly contagious viral disease which spreads rapidly through horse populations.

Affected horses not previously vaccinated will show a high fever, nasal discharge and persistent hacking cough, and they can be depressed and off their feed.

It is generally only fatal in horses that may have a lower resistance, such as older horses or foals. It is a very debilitating illness, not unlike influenza in humans (as opposed to the common cold) and it takes horses two to three months to recover.

Because it is so contagious if it spread through the general horse community, racing could have been shut down completely for two to three months because there would literally be no horses fit to race.



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