How will the current outbreak of Japanese Encephalitis in Australia affect NZ horses?
Japanese Encephalitis is caused by a virus transmitted to horses via biting mosquitos. It affects the brain and while most
horses remain well some may become very ill and a small number of horses do die. If a sick horse was imported into New Zealand it could not transmit disease to others as it is a ‘dead-end host’. Birds and pigs are the main reservoirs of the virus. Spread to horses or people requires a mosquito to transmit the virus from a diseased bird or pig.
Why does New Zealand care?
Most horses recover from infection, but if New Zealand imported a horse that was or became sick with Japanese Encephalitis we would want to ensure other countries that import horses or semen from us do not impose more restrictive import measures on the assumption that Japanese Encephalitis is endemic here.
What is the New Zealand Equine Health Association doing?
NZEHA is meeting with MPI to discuss what additional import measures are appropriate. MPI will review the import health standard following this meeting and negotiate with Australia.
If you have horses in Australia needing to return to New Zealand or are planning an Australian racing campaign, plan ahead and share your travel plans with your importer early.
As always, horse owners should get advice from their vet when their horse is sick and when veterinarians are investigating unusual clinical presentations with neurological symptoms then always call the MPI disease hotline 0800 80 99 66