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EQUINE INFLUENZA: No evidence of EI in New Zealand


There is currently no evidence of equine influenza in New Zealand. MAF Biosecurity New Zealand (MAFBNZ) is growing more confident that the virus has not arrived in the country as investigations into the 97 horses imported from Australia progress and time passes.
MAFBNZ yesterday completed blood sampling of all horses classified as high priority. Sampling of remaining properties will be completed by the end of the week.
No clinical signs of equine influenza have been found in either the imported horses or horses that have been in contact with the imported horses. To date, three horses have returned negative equine influenza results.
"We don't have any active investigations underway and are growing more confident as time passes. Test results are starting to trickle in and will confirm whether horses are free of the disease," said Acting Director Border Standards, Peter Thomson.
In the meantime, any horse with suspected symptoms of equine influenza will be investigated immediately and blood samples will be collected to rule out infection. Although horses that have never been exposed to the virus show symptoms rapidly, horses that have been vaccinated for the disease can carry the virus for up to two weeks and show little or no signs of illness themselves.
Horse owners need to be vigilant for signs of the disease (see below). Anyone who suspects their horse may be showing symptoms of equine influenza should isolate the horse from other animals and contact their vet immediately or phone the MAFBNZ emergency hotline 0800 80 99 66.
MAFBNZ has halted all imports of horses from Australia and tightened up border procedures around the importation of horse equipment.
All horse equipment that arrives in New Zealand from Australia is being directed by MAFBNZ to a treatment facility for cleaning, disinfection and/or fumigation. Passengers entering New Zealand from Australia are being questioned as to their movements within the country. If they have come from or visited an infected area they are being questioned further and may have their personal luggage searched.
A comprehensive response plan has been prepared and two vaccines are registered for emergency use, should the disease be found here. There are currently no plans to vaccinate horses in New Zealand as a precautionary measure.
Equine influenza is a highly contagious viral respiratory disease that spreads rapidly causing significant illness in horses. It is similar to other viral conditions which cause coughing and some discharge from a horse's nose. However, the influenza is more severe – horses develop a temperature and a dry, hacking cough.

Horses with equine influenza become tired and do not eat, often for days. If there is nasal discharge it will begin clear, but thicken and cloud.

The disease is spread by close contact between horses. Infected horses and contaminated equipment or people may spread the infection from farm to farm. The disease lasts several days with full recovery taking two to three weeks, although some horses may develop complications.

Equine influenza is not of human health concern. For more information please visit www.biosecurity.govt.nz

- MAF Biosecurity New Zealand