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Aust Vets Warn On Imported Horse Diseases

Wednesday, 13th October 2010

Meanwhile on the eve of the 2010 Spring Racing Carnival, Australia's peak veterinary organisation "is warning of the need for continual vigilance against imported diseases like equine influenza". Australian Veterinary Association president Dr Barry Smyth noted: "With Japanese horses competing in this year's carnival for the 1st time since the equine influenza outbreak, it's a timely reminder that we need to continue our efforts to keep out diseases." Horses from Japan had been prevented from competing in Australia since September 2007, when the major outbreak of equine influenza "was traced back to Japan, where the disease is endemic"; audits of pre-arrival quarantine facilities in Japan have now occurred (as recommended by the Callinan Inquiry) & transportation of horses has resumed. Smyth emphasised: "The importation of horses into Australia fell dramatically from 800 to around 400-per-year following the 2007 equine influenza outbreak; however this number is on the rise again, which increases the chances of another outbreak. The equine influenza outbreak of 2007-08 is estimated to have cost the Australian government at least $350 million in direct costs & an additional $1.5 billion in indirect costs to the horse industry & the nation. But despite this we still don't have an emergency animal disease response agreement for the horse industry." Smyth declared the AVA "is concerned that without action on a funding agreement, another major disease outbreak could cripple Australia's horse industry, impacting on everything from the weekend pony club to thoroughbred horse racing. To ensure long-term security for the industry, there needs to be a proper emergency disease funding arrangement. This is important because the threat to the industry is bigger than equine influenza - a funding agreement will deal with any horse diseases that might affect the industry & livelihoods. A good strong quarantine system & an emergency disease levy for the horse industry are the best insurance against imported diseases like equine influenza." The AVA also reiterated that "at the Primary Industries Ministerial Council Meeting in Darwin in April 2010, Ministers agreed to the need to establish a horse industry commitment to a national levy by 1 December 2010".

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