Regional EI restricted zones in SE Queensland and NSW where the horse standstill are in force and Victoria has a 24 hour surveillance of all its border crossing points along the Murray River to prevent any horses moving into EI-free Victoria. Vaccination has begun in the two EI-infected states and, as a precaution, selected racehorses and breeders in Victoria as well.
Just yesterday the Victoria Government has issued a stern warning to Victorian horse owners amid reports, horses in other states are being deliberately infected with the equine flu. Police are investigating reports, owners and breeders in New South Wales are deliberately spreading the flu virus, to enable their animals to recover quickly.
The Acting Chief Veterinary Officer in Victoria, Andrew Cameron says the practice is known as “snotting”, and carries fines of up to $99,000 and up to seven years jail.
In effect this amounts to using EI-infected material (nasal discharges [snot] of horse with flu) to infect other horses.
“The message for Victorians is that nobody should be attempting to do something like that, to bring the disease into Victoria and deliberately spread it. There are very severe penalties that apply and of course nobody would be wanting to do that,” Dr Cameron said.
This unilateralism is reminiscent of the spread on rabbit calicivirus by farmers transferring dead rabbit carcasses into other parts of Australia. The rabbit virus - used for biological control - was also deliberately introduced into Tasmania and New Zealand soon after mainland farmers decided to help spread the virus and release it into new places.
Tasmania is relying on Bass Strait and border quarantine and horse movement bans to keep Tasmania EI free. The local authorities need to take the initiative and move quickly to vaccinate horses and anticipate the need that ensure all horse entering the state are fully immunized and enter from a control area and not a restricted area.
Regrettably the abalone ganglioneuritis virus is looking like the next disease to jump from Victoria into Tasmania. And the list of diseases and unwanted organisms knocking on the Bass Strait ‘door’ or slipping through Tasmania’s biosecurity net is likely to grow with the years.
Welcome to a shrinking, greedy world - ho hum!
TASMANIAN authorities should consider requesting that local horses are vaccinated against Equine Influenza in line with the approach taken in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.