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EI at Emirates Park

Equine influenza continues to march across New South Wales and Queensland, although Victoria still remains flu-free at this point and no horses are allowed into the state from infected areas.

Among the stud farms now affected is Emirates Park (part of the Darley empire) — three yearlings, some mares as well as a teaser and a nursemare have all tested positive.

While there are good arguments for vaccination (see below), it seems clear that not everyone is following the strict biosecurity procedures that have been put in place — some Perth trainers were fined for disobeying the lockdown rules and moving their horses to a ‘private’ training area. One imagines that there are other similar infractions that have not been noted. Given the fact that seven shuttle stallions are confirmed to have the disease, it would seem worth pursuing whether or not the rules have been applied to to everyone equally.

But back to the vaccination issue; while horses who travel often are routinely vaccinated, the local horse population in Australia has never had a need to be similarly protected, since until two weeks ago, it shared the distinction of being entirely free of the virus with only New Zealand and Iceland. Indeed, diseases such as EI are the major reason that Iceland never allows horses to return once they have left the country, nor can you import horse equipment unless it is new in its original packaging or has gone through a ‘dip’ — the last time I went to Iceland during the British Foot & Mouth outbreak, I was required to have my boots dipped into before wearing them to any horse farms, and with good reason. At work we have a well-developed set of biosecurity protocols, but if you gave an anonymous survey, everyone could point to several occasions where they have not been followed, and there are initiatives in place to ensure that the importance of adhering to those protocols is understood at every level. The arguments for and against vaccination are summed up by two opinions:

“As they [officials] procrastinate on whether to vaccinate or not … they’re risking our industry and the long-term viability of our industry,” Mr O’Shea [Randwick trainer John O’Shea] said. “The rest of the world deals with it (EI) through vaccination so why should we be any different.”

Vets disagree. “You can vaccinate to try to make sure they don’t get it but you can see at Eastern Creek they have been vaccinated and they have it,” says NSW chief veterinarian Dr Bruce Christie. “The strains change all the time.” He advocates containment, and letting it burn itself out – like a bushfire.

There are no easy answers.

In addition to the elderly horse who died last week, EI has claimed its first racehorse victim — a previously healthy horse who had just won a race in late July.

1 comment to EI at Emirates Park

  • Anonymous

    It should be noted that Emirates Park is, in fact, not under the Darley roster. Emirates Park is owned by His Excellency Nasser Lootah, a businessman based in Dubai.

    Darley’s properties in Australia include Darley VIC in Seymour and Darley NSW in Aberdeen.

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