Horse flu was first detected in Sydney last week – forcing a ban on the movement of horses and all races to be cancelled. The Sydney racecourse, which houses around 700 thoroughbreds and is home to some of the country’s most highly regarded trainers, will now be quarantined for 30 days to try to contain the outbreak. The flu was found in eight of 10 horses from the stable of Randwick trainer Anthony Cummings.
The suspension of the Sydney racing carnival will cost millions of dollars both to the horse industry and to bookmakers, and will possibly lead to job losses. In addition, none of these horses will be able to compete at the Melbourne cup, Australia’s most prestigious horse race which takes place in November. Elsewhere, almost 100 people, many of them children, remained in quarantine following an outbreak in Queensland state.
Horse flu refers to varieties of Influenza virus A that are endemic in horses. There are two main types of virus called equine-1 (H7N7) which commonly affects horse heart muscle and equine-2 (H3N8) which is usually more severe. Horse flu is endemic throughout the world, but this is the first outbreak in Australia. The disease has a nearly 100% infection rate in an unvaccinated horse population that has not been previously exposed to the virus. Symptoms include a fever, a dry hacking cough and a runny nose, as well as reluctance to eat or drink. Most horses usualyl recover in 2 to 3 weeks. Equine flu does not affect humans, but can be carried on clothing or footwear.