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Horse Flu Vaccine Application Approved By ERMA

Media Release 21 DECEMBER 2007

Authority Approves Application To Bring In Horse Flu Vaccine

The Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA New Zealand) has approved an application by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Biosecurity New Zealand (MAF BNZ) to use a vaccine to protect New Zealand horses against the equine influenza virus.

The equine influenza virus caused major disruption in the horse racing and breeding industry in Australia earlier this year after infected animals were discovered in New South Wales. Thousands of horses eventually tested positive for the virus. Australia has since imported a vaccine to help control the disease.

The use of the Flu Avert I.N vaccine in the event of equine influenza being identified in horses in New Zealand has been approved with a number of conditions placed on its use.

ERMA New Zealand's General Manager, New Organisms, Dr Libby Harrison, says in approving the vaccine the Authority's decision-making committee considered potential adverse effects on public safety and health, valued species, societies and communities, the economy, the environment and natural habitats. "The Committee decided that the risks posed by the vaccine are negligible. However, in recognition of the risks, the committee has imposed conditions on storage, handling and use of the vaccine."

The conditions placed on the vaccine include:

Only approved veterinarians will be able to receive and administer the
vaccine;
Vaccinated horses must be kept separate from unvaccinated horses for a
period of 14 days after vaccination; and
MAF BNZ will keep a register of vaccine importations, approved vets, and
horses that have been vaccinated.

Dr Harrison says the approval of this vaccine gives MAF an additional tool for use in case of an outbreak of equine influenza in New Zealand. The Flu Avert I.N vaccine contains a weakened live equine influenza virus which is administered to horses via the nose. It stimulates an immune response that is similar to the response that occurs when the horse catches a virulent wild strain of the virus. The vaccine still has to be approved by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority's Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines Group before it can be used.

ENDS


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