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Equine flu suspected in 50 horses in NSW, Qld

Posted August 27, 2007 05:25:00
Updated August 27, 2007 05:34:00

At least 50 horses in six locations across NSW and Qld are now suspected to have equine flu (File photo).

At least 50 horses in six locations across NSW and Qld are now suspected to have equine flu (File photo). (AAP)

At least 50 horses in six locations across New South Wales and Queensland are now suspected to have equine flu.

The site of a major horse trial event at Warwick, south-west of Brisbane, remains in lockdown this morning after three horses showed symptoms of the equine influenza virus.

Three hundred horses there have been quarantined after three horses from New South Wales tested positive to symptoms.

Initial testing at a laboratory in Brisbane revealed the three animals were carriers of the flu.

But further testing is being conducted at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Victoria, and the results are not expected until later in the week.

Another batch of horses at Warwick were tested yesterday and the Queensland Government jet was being used to deliver those samples to the lab in Geelong.

Biosecurity Queensland spokesman Ian Douglas says authorities are prepared for this type of emergency.

"We've been spared equine influenza in the past so that is a first in Australia, an unhappy first, but certainly we've dealt with other emergency diseases including some of horses," he said.

The Queensland Premier Peter Beattie says several briefings on the horse flu outbreak will be held in Brisbane today.

"Jim Varghese, who's the director-general of DPI [Department of Primary Industries], he will be convening a meeting at 9:00 with he industry to obviously engage with them to talk about the various issues, working out how to deal with it, all sorts of things like that," he said.

"I'll be getting the two relevant ministers, both Andrew Fraser and Tim Mulherin, to brief cabinet on the latest position."

Melbourne Cup fears

Meanwhile, the chief executive of Unitab Queensland, Dick McIlwain, says it is foolish to suggest the Melbourne Cup will be cancelled or delayed because of the horse flu crisis.

Adelaide-based trainer David Hayes and federal Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran have said that if the outbreak is not brought under control soon, it could delay the spring racing carnival.

Mr McIlwain says that is an overreaction.

"The Melbourne Cup is over two months away - it is absolutely ludicrous for people to panic and suggest that the Melbourne Cup is going to be affected here," he said.

"Even if in the end the Quarantine service they don't want to bring some horses in from overseas, I would have thought that a lot of Australian trainers would celebrate that to some extent because it would give them a better chance."

Mr McIlwain says 'hysteria' will not help the issue.

"To even think at this stage that we couldn't find 24 clean horses in Australia to go around in a race two months from now is just absolutely ridiculous," he said.

"I think people ought to just settle down, and quite clearly it is a significant issue, it's an issue that is being managed there are plenty of people who are able to do that... and stupid hysteria won't resolve anything."

Tags: influenza, animals, rural, sport, horse-racing, nsw, qld, warwick-4370