Thursday, September 20, 2007

Govt to import vaccine for equine flu

The federal Government is set to sign off on a request from the NSW Government for the importation of the vaccine but NSW Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald warned that not every horse would be treated and that the vaccine would not solve all the problems stemming from the equine influenza outbreak.

Mr Macdonald said it was imperative that biosecurity, hygiene and movement restrictions remained in place to help contain the disease.

About 5000 horses in buffer zones established around known equine influenza hotspots will be vaccinated twice at an interval of 14 days to ensure the most successful use of the vaccine.

The Department of Primary Industries will define four risk zones across NSW, which will be announced later in the week.

"The vaccine will be imported, once the federal Government's office of the gene technology regulator signs off on this initiative," Mr Macdonald said.

"There is a national agreement that we must use the vaccine strategically and with precision to stay one step ahead of the disease, with the ultimate aim of eradication."

He defended the decision not to vaccinate horse earlier.

"Using vaccine earlier in the campaign, without the information we have now, would have been flying blind," he said.

Queensland Racing chairman Bob Bentley has called for a broader vaccination program to be implemented after the number of infected properties in Queensland grew to 146 on the weekend.

He said vaccination was the only way to deal with the crisis.

"Whilst there are a number of arguments in favour and also against equine influenza vaccination, the time has come to take positive action," Mr Bentley said.

Champion Queensland apprentice jockey Ric McMahon was yesterday suspended for one month and fined $5000 by Queensland Racing stewards for failing to comply with biosecurity measures aimed at stopping the spread of equine influenza.

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