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McGauran issues national racing ban

25th August 2007, 12:30 WST

Federal Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran has ordered a 72-hour Australia-wide ban on all thoroughbred and harness racing following an outbreak of equine influenza (EI).

"There will be a 72-hour ban on all race meetings for both thoroughbreds and harness," Mr McGauran said.

"In addition there will be an order for standstill for all horses under licensed persons.

"Also, an appeal to all those with ponies or recreational horses or work horses not to leave their properties.

"There will also be an instruction to trainers not to shift beyond the front gate of their training centre."

Sixteen horses have now been confirmed as initially testing positive for equine influenza at two Sydney locations and another six are showing signs of the virus, NSW Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald has confirmed.

Eleven of the infected horses are in lock down at Centennial Park and the other five are at the quarantine facility at Eastern Creek.

At least six horses that have been to those facilities in recent days have travelled to stables at Nowra, Parkes and Maitland and are showing signs of the flu virus but tests have yet to confirm their infection.

Among the race meetings lost today were the Warwick Stakes program from Randwick in Sydney, Moonee Valley in Melbourne and Cheltenham in Adelaide.

The cost of the cancellations is expected to run into the tens of millions of dollars.

Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’Landys said the industry had acted properly and in accordance with the AusVet Plan which outlines procedures and protocols to be followed in the event of any contagious disease.

"The national thoroughbred plan has been put in place," V’Landys said.

"We are in the hands of the NSW government and the federal government and they have acted comprehensively and swiftly."

The first case of horse flu in Australia was detected in a stallion at the Eastern Creek quarantine station west of Sydney on Thursday.

The horse had travelled from the northern hemisphere and the positive test means 80 of the world’s most valuable stallions will be detained at Eastern Creek and Melbourne’s Spotswood quarantine stations for at least 30 days.

Authorities are trying to track the movement of all people who have visited both Eastern Creek and Centennial Park.

Equine influnenza is not infectious to humans but can be carried on clothing, skin or equipment.

The department of Primary Industries has placed strict conditions on horse movement, breaches of which could attract maximum penalties of 12 months imprisonment and fines up to $44,000.

Under the conditions, no horse can be floated or led to or from a stable or property into a public thoroughfare until further notice.

This means trainers such as Gai Waterhouse, who has stables off course but close to Randwick, will need a permit to take her horses to trackwork.

The same applies to many trainers at Warwick Farm whose stables are separated from the racecourse by Governor Macquarie Drive, with access gained by tunnel.

Horse transport companies will have to decontaminate their horse floats with disinfectant as will anyone who has visited Eastern Creek and Centennial Park.

A 10km exclusion zone is in place around the Centennial Park stables and stablehands who work at Randwick Racecourse and also have contact with horses at Centennial Park have been barred from the racecourse.

AAP

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