Equine influenza

Equine influenza is a notifiable disease    

Under Queensland legislation, if you suspect the presence of this disease in horses, you must report it to Biosecurity Queensland.

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Symptoms to look for        

The main clinical signs of equine influenza (EI) are usually a sudden increase in temperature (to between 39°C and 41°C), a deep, dry, hacking cough, and a watery nasal discharge which may later become thick and smelly.

Other signs can include depression, loss of appetite, laboured breathing, and muscle pain and stiffness.

If your horse is diagnosed        

Infected horses or donkeys are subject to a standstill restriction in order to prevent spread of the disease.

Affects of equine influenza on horses        

Few adult horses die from equine influenza but it can kill young foals. Recovery usually occurs after a couple of weeks but horses need to be rested for a further period to avoid complications.

How equine influenza is spread        

Equine influenza is rapidly spread through close direct contact between horses. Infected horses excrete the virus in their expired air for up to 14 days after initial infection. Coughing contributes to the spread.

Infection can also be spread via clothing, horse equipment, people, buildings that have recently housed sick horses, vehicles, floats, grooming and veterinary instruments. Anything that comes into contact with an infected horse should be carefully and thoroughly decontaminated.

The virus survives in the environment for up to 36 hours but is easily killed by cleaning and disinfection.

Outbreaks are most likely to occur when horses are gathered together.

Equine influenza in Australia        

The detection of equine influenza in Australia is regarded as an emergency and every attempt will be made to eradicate the disease. National arrangements are in place to support such a response.

The first and only outbreak of equine influenza in Australia occurred in 2007 in Queensland and New South Wales.

As of 26 June 2008, Queensland is officially declared free of equine influenza. Australia is one of the very few countries in the world to fully eradicate the disease.

Can people catch equine influenza?        

Humans do not get infected with equine influenza. However, humans can physically carry the virus on their skin, hair, clothing and shoes, and can therefore transfer the virus to other horses. It is vital that you shower and wash carefully, wash your hair and put on a completely fresh set of clothes            (including shoes) after contact with any horses (including your own horses) that might be infected. The virus can also be physically carried on equipment and vehicles.

Last updated 11 October 2016