Shut the gate ... for as long as it takes

By NEELIMA CHOAHAN

HORSES should be locked down for as long as it takes to put a reign on the equine flu crisis sweeping the country, according to a local trainer.

LOCKDOWN horses as long as it takes to put a reign on the equine flu, a local trainer has said.

Duranbah racehorse trainer Grant Marshall said yesterday horses needed to be quarantined for a longer time to clamp down on equine influenza.

"We've got to get serious if we want to make sure the flu is gone," Mr Marshall said.

"There should be more of a panic with more horses being locked down for a longer time."

Mr Marshall, who has 15 horses on his Villa Formosa property, said action had to be taken quickly to halt the spread of the highly contagious flu.

"If we jump on it straight away then the flu is easily treatable," he said.

"Make sure it is done correctly this time so that we don't have to revisit it again."

Nikoline Browne, who runs the Pirouette Equestrian Park in Cabarita agreed.

Ms Browne, who is from Europe, said she had seen how the flu had crippled the continent.

"It spread all over Europe within a week," Ms Browne said. "If we are really careful for the next two weeks than we can defeat the virus, but if we get non-chalant then it would cost us a lot more."

Ms Browne, who has 15 horses on her property and is a dressage coach, said she had cancelled all lessons for the time being.

"I don't allow anyone who has been around horses to enter my property," she said.

However, she said a long-drawn lockdown would hurt her business.

"If it's only for three days then it won't be so tragic, but if it goes longer than the losses will be significant."

The first confirmed case of EI in Australia was detected at Sydney's Eastern Creek quarantine station last Thursday in a stallion which had travelled from the northern hemisphere.

NSW Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald said yesterday more than 400 horses on 53 properties were now showing symptoms of the virus, with 51 horses confirmed as carrying the disease.

The highly contagious flu cannot be passed from animals to human beings, but the virus can survive on skin, fabrics and the surface of contaminated equipment. People who have close contact with horses can transmit the infection between places.

In a bid to contain the virus, the NSW government slapped an indefinite ban on race meetings and the movement of horses in the state.

Tweed/Byron LAC Sergeant Rod Golden said police had been asked to look out for any vehicles conveying horses as part of a state wide blitz.

"We are keeping an eye on tick gates but there have been no dramas," Sergeant Golden said.

Organisers of one of Queensland's biggest shows said they still hoped to run horse events. The 101st Gold Coast Show, which runs for three days from Thursday, includes a number of equestrian events including showjumping and dressage. Show manager Doug Reiser said the horse events had not been cancelled. "We are determined to have the horse show here, but having said that we will comply with the requirements of the government," Mr Reiser said.

"We are setting up as if it's going to happen."

However, Northern Rivers Racing Association deputy chief and chairman of Jockey Club Bernie Quinn said a decision had been made to put a stop to all horse racing until tomorrow night.

"We are disappointed," Mr Quinn said. "But the situation is being monitored day by day.

"The races may be on by the weekend, or next week, whenever the horses are healed."

For information and updates on EI log on to www.outbreak.gov.au or call the hotline at 1800 234 002.



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