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Ignored Rules Led to EI Outbreak

Equine influenza spread because people didn't follow procedures.

The spread of equine influenza in Australia was caused by an apparent lack of concern about horses with elevated temperatures and poor record keeping, according to a groom working at the Eastern Creek quarantine facility. The cost of the EI outbreak in New South Wales and Queensland is estimated to be about Aus$3.94-million a day, according to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics. 

Coolmore groom James Carey told an inquiry headed by Retired High Court judge Ian Callinan that at 7 a.m. on the morning the Coolmore stallions had arrived at Eastern Creek, Encosta De Lago had "an elevated temperature of 38.6 degrees Celsius (101.5 F), a slight cough and a nasal discharge". However, Carey explained, he’d had no experience with equine influenza in Ireland (where horses are vaccinated against the virus) and did not contemplate it as the cause of Encosta de Lago’s illness. Over the next few days, the horses in the immediate vicinity of Coolmore’s champion stallion Encosta de Lago also showed similar symptoms, according to Carey. He said temperatures of all horses at Eastern Creek were routinely taken twice a day and recorded in a diary, as well as in chalk on the outside of each stallion’s stable door, but until the EI outbreak occurred, he saw no evidence of Australian Quarantine & Inspection Service staff "taking interest in the temperatures recorded on the stable doors".  

Carey also said a log book that grooms were supposed to sign every time they left and re-entered the Eastern Creek station (administered by the AQIS) was not always used because it could not be located. Carey explained: "The book that was supposed to be used for the grooms to sign in and out was kept in the common area of the grooms’ quarter. There were 15 guys sharing the common room and the book might sometimes be near a cooking pot, then might be under six magazines, and you might not see it for days."  

The spread of EI out of Eastern Creek has been attributed by Australian officials to people not following disinfection guidelines. Although Carey said he did not read the quarantine instructions at Eastern Creek carefully, he had spent four years in pre-export and post-arrival quarantine situations, and knew what he should do, particularly hygiene requirements, specifically: "I always took showers before I left Eastern Creek. Our work is not the cleanest work and as a matter of general hygiene I don’t wear dirty clothes when I go out." 

The independent inquiry conducted by Callinan began Nov. 13 and is expected to hear testimony from more than 100 witnesses.