11 Jan 2009

Australia declared free of horse flu

12:57 pm on 11 January 2009

Australia has been officially declared free of equine influenza, 12 months after the last case of horse flu was reported.

The announcement from the World Organisation for Animal Health on Sunday follows the lifting of quarantine protocols for horses.

Australian horses entering New Zealand had to be quarantined and vaccinated after the outbreak was discovered.

Equine influenza devastated the industry in New South Wales and Queensland in 2007 after the disease escaped from a quarantine station in Sydney.

Queensland Minister for Primary Industries and Fisheries Tim Mulherin says it cost more than $A40 million to eradicate the disease from the state.

"The cost to eradicate equine influenza was significant, but what we stood to lose was even greater, and it wasn't just one-off losses," Mr Mulherin said.

"If this disease had taken hold it would have burdened the industry and horse owners every day, every season, and every year, with its continual presence."

Mr Mulherin says more than 68,000 horses have been vaccinated since August 2007.

It is no longer mandatory to register horse events in Australia.