The Current State of EI in Australia 2008

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The Current State of EI in Australia. AHIC message to industry – January 2008

from the Australian Horse Industry Council President: Barry Smyth
No new cases

The eradication effort to rid Australia of Equine Influenza (EI) continues unabated. The last report of a new infection in NSW was 9 December and in QLD 25 December, 2007. That there have been no recent reports of new infections is welcome news. Surveillance and testing of previously infected properties, suspect properties and dangerous contact properties is showing that EI seems to be dying out with many of these properties now being converted to a resolved status – that is they no longer are under suspicion of having EI.
Reduction of movement restrictions

There has been a reduction in movement restrictions in both NSW and QLD over the past couple of weeks. This has allowed more freedom of movement in those jurisdictions, and even permitted some interstate movements into the non-infected jurisdictions. Hopefully this will allow a gradual return to more normal horse industry activities over the next couple of months.
Resolving the red and purple zones

Discussions are underway about how to resolve the red and purple zones and allow them to be freed up and return to being considered the same as the rest of Australia. This will involve extensive surveillance (both active and passive) and testing of horses in both red and purple zone areas of NSW and QLD. There will need to be testing of several thousand horses on several hundred properties in both States to ensure that EI is no longer circulating among horses in those areas.
Ongoing testing

There has been ongoing surveillance and testing of horses in all the non-infected jurisdictions to ensure that they remain free from any EI in horses in those areas. This has been supplemented by even more widespread surveillance and testing in the original green and amber areas of NSW and QLD to demonstrate that they remain free of EI, and that the area of Australia where EI has been circulating recently continues to shrink. Despite all efforts to detect EI in the non-infected jurisdictions and the green and amber areas, none has been found so far.
Keep reporting suspect EI!

With EI seemingly in remission and eradication well underway ,reporting of EI is now more important than ever. This will allow prompt investigation and attention to the problem. If there is a resurgence of EI at some point in the future, the longer the period between then and now the more difficult will be the issue of disease investigation, because it will mean that EI has been circulating undetected somewhere – and tracing of movements will be more difficult.
AHIC remains hopeful that the projected date of 30 June 2008 for the end to this emergency response can be achieved. There will need to be ongoing surveillance and testing for a period after that if Australia is to be considered free from EI from an international perspective. In the meantime there is a real possibility that even more horse gatherings and events will be able to resume by about Easter. Parallel with this time frame will be a gradual freeing up of movements across zone boundaries and state borders. Protocols to allow that to happen are being developed now and should be released about the end of January.

The study by the University of Western Sydney on the human impacts of the EI emergency will no doubt reveal some interesting observations. The results of the internet-based survey have been collated and are being analysed. When they have been summarised, they will be made available on the AHIC web site.
The second AHIC survey into the economic impact of the EI emergency is underway now. I would urge you to complete the survey if you have not already done so. You can find it at AHIC Follow-up Equine Influenza Impact Survey
Information from this survey will supplement that from the survey completed last year. That information was invaluable in making Ministers and other decision-makers aware of the devastation that this has had on the national horse industry. Current Federal assistance packages terminate on 28 February, but it the AHIC is urging seems that more Federal and State governments to provide the assistance which will be needed to help horse industry participants and businesses get through the autumn and winter months until activities and breeding resume next spring. Results from this AHIC economic survey will enable a realistic picture to be made available to industry and politicians of the ongoing effects of the emergency response to EI.
AHIC activities

AHIC continues to represent the national horse industry on CCEAD and NMG. So far there have been 41 CCEAD meetings or teleconferences, and 20 NMG meetings or teleconferences. There seems to be no let up in those committee activities and they will continue to meet regularly to ensure that the eradication efforts remain firmly on track so that normal horse industry activities can resume as soon as possible.
Callinan Commission

AHIC has made a submission to the Callinan Commission of Inquiry into the EI outbreak. The Commission is to resume hearings on 24 January, and expects to hear more evidence over the coming month or so. AHIC urges anybody with any evidence that can assist the Commissioner in his deliberations to make themselves known and provide their information. It is possible for anonymity if somebody considers that this to be an important aspect of providing information to the Commission. The date for submission of the final report is 24 April 2008. – not all that far off now. There has been plenty of interesting significant evidence information presented so far, and it will be interesting to see what new evidence is produced in the coming weeks. Hopefully the questions presented in the terms of reference for the Commission will be answered.