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equine influenza
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Horse industry says ‘neigh’ to equine influenza

1 Dec

In a first of its kind, a two-day virtual exercise brought government, animal disease specialists, and industry bodies together to prepare the broader horse industry in responding to a future outbreak of equine influenza (EI).

Hosted and coordinated by Animal Health Australia from 23–24 November 2021, Exercise Gammalite consisted of practical activities to ensure all industry stakeholders understand the role they play in responding to an outbreak, should one occur.

Initiated and funded by Harness Racing Australia, the exercise attracted 60 participants in total including those from national horse organisations: Racing Australia, Australian Horse Industry Council, and Equestrian Australia, as well as several Commonwealth and jurisdictional Chief Veterinary Officers.

Dr Samantha Allan, General Manager of Emergency Preparedness, Animal Health and Biosecurity at AHA was pleased not only with attendance but the level of engagement of those who are the ‘boots on the ground’ during an equine disease response.

“AHA regularly brings industry and government together to ensure we share a cohesive vision and approach toward our national emergency disease outbreak. These exercises complement AHA’s AUSVETPLAN manuals extremely well.

“The EI exercise was a good balance of presentations, discussions and engagement opportunities designed to achieve an increased awareness and understanding around everyone’s roles and responsibilities should an outbreak occur in the future,” Dr Allan said.

The 2007 outbreak of EI in Australia caused significant economic and social impacts which demonstrated the need for all horse industry stakeholders to be prepared to respond to an emergency animal disease. So, another major role of the exercise was to identify ways to enhance collaboration between the industry bodies moving forward, particularly during peacetimes.

“A great outcome from the exercise was an agreement for AHA to set up a continued forum for the horse industry to come together and discuss animal health topics of concern,” Dr Allan said.
“We are extremely grateful to HRA Chair, Graeme Campbell OAM, who generously donated his annual honorarium to ensure this exercise was fully supported and coordinated”.

The exercise was considered a major success by attendees, organisers, and participants alike, with industry going away with an in-depth understanding of animal disease management strategies in Australia.

To find out more about previous exercises undertaken by AHA visit – Training exercises – Animal Health Australia

Quick facts:

  • The exercise is named in honour of Gammalite. Foaled in 1976, Gammalite was an Australian bred Standardbred racehorse who was the first Standardbred to win $1 million in Australia. He was regarded as one of Australia’s most successful pacers with 16 Group one wins. He won the Inter Dominion Championship twice and was inducted into the Inter Dominion Hall of Fame.
  • Exercise Gammalite was a discussion exercise that was conducted on 23 and 24 November 2021. The exercise is based on a fictional outbreak of equine influenza (EI) in Victoria and New South Wales.
  • Equine Influenza is a World organisation for Animal Health (OIE)-listed disease that spreads rapidly in naïve horse populations and has the potential to cause illness and loss of performance. Rarely, it causes deaths in young foals and debilitated or old horses. It is important in the international movement of horses.