Australian vets have been told of the weather conditions that aid the spread of the equine influenza virus.
Vets attending this week’s Australian Veterinary Association’s annual conference in Canberra yesterday received a rundown of new research that revealed how weather conditions can affect the spread of the highly contagious virus.
The new information will allow veterinarians to predict and control the spread of an outbreak more effectively.
Dr Navneet Dhand, from the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney, outlined research that demonstrates how air temperature, humidity and wind velocity influence spread of the virus.
The researchers analysed data from the 2007 horse flu outbreak in Australia, together with data provided by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology for the same time period.
“We discovered infection of horses was more likely on days when relative humidity was low and less likely on days when the maximum daily air temperature was between 20 and 25 degrees,” said Dhand, the principal investigator of the research project at the University of Sydney.
“Horses on premises downwind of those on nearby infected premises were more likely to catch the virus. Infection rates were even higher on days when wind speeds were greater than 30 kilometres per hour, substantiating numerous anecdotal reports of the windborne spread of equine influenza.”
Australia’s equine influenza outbreak followed a breach in the quarantine of infected imported horses.
Nearly 70,000 horses on over 9000 premises in New South Wales and Queensland became affected during the outbreak.
Control and eradication cost more than $US350 million.
The disease was eradicated within five months, mainly due to a complete ban on horses being moved.
“By having a better idea of how the disease spreads, our findings will help animal disease authorities reduce the duration and cost of outbreak management as well as mitigating the social impacts of the outbreak,” Dhand said.
“Although the study was limited to the equine influenza virus, it could have implications for understanding the spread of other influenza viruses, providing opportunities for collaborations between veterinary and human public health scientists.”
Earlier report: Weather’s effects of equine flu spread investigated