Horse flu infects Australian thoroughbreds

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

It has been confirmed that eight thoroughbred race horses at Randwick Racecourse in Sydney have been infected with equine influenza. Randwick has been locked down, and is expected to remain so for up to two months.

It is expected that the virulent flu will affect the majority of the 700 horses stabled at Randwick. NSW Minister for Primary Industries said the facility would be quarantined until 30 days after the last sign of the flu.

The cases are the first infections of race horses, despite infecting dozens of recreational horses across NSW and Queensland. The flu is highly contagious but cannot be transmitted to humans. The national racing shutdown was costing the industry tens of millions of dollars every day.

Chief Executive of Racing NSW, Peter V'Landys said while racing had been disrupted since a ban on horse movements last weekend today was a "grim, black day" for the racing industry in NSW. Racing is expected to resume in all Australian states except NSW and Queensland on the weekend.

While Sydney's spring racing carnival has been canceled, Melbourne's is expected to kick off this weekend with the Caufield Cup. The cup will be ran with special precautions in place to attempt to keep the state free of the virus. Contact between the general public and those working with the horses will be banned and Sydney-based jockeys Darren Beadman and Hugh Bowman and a number of interstate trainers including Bart Cummings are not allowed to take part.

Federal Minister for Agriculture, Peter McGauran said the spring carnival in Melbourne will remain "largely intact" despite losing some of the biggest names in Australian racing.

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