Equine Influenza Spreads to Yearlings at Darley

The equine influenza outbreak has worsened with news of infected yearlings at Darley.

If everything you have read about the equine influenza problem in Australia has seemed bad news…then it just got worse.

Three high-priced yearlings residing at Darley, in the New South Wales Hunter Valley, have been confirmed to have contracted equine influenza (EI). The rest of the Thoroughbred population on the expansive farm is now under threat.

Darley’s Australian general manager Oliver Tait said, “EI is spreading quickly, and we were not surprised when a small number of our yearlings began to display clinical signs of the virus. We contacted the DPI immediately and their tests confirmed that it has reached our property.”

Darley has a large farm in the heart of the Hunter Valley. It is just down the road from Segenhoe Stud, which had a teaser pony test positive over the weekend. Surrounding Darley are major farms including Vinery, Alanbridge, Brooklyn and Kia Ora, each of which house hundreds of broodmares and foals.

Darley has been restricting the movement of people and horses on and off the property since Aug. 26, in addition to strictly adhering to bio-security protocols.

"It is apparent that the virus is airborne, as our New South Wales property has been in lockdown for two weeks," said Tait. "We have continually been seeking advice from leading epidemiologists in the UK and USA since the outbreak of EI in Australia, and their advice to us is that vaccination is unequivocally the only way forward. Containment efforts have probably assisted in slowing the spread of the virus, but it is clear that they have not stopped it.

"Surely now we must focus on a vaccination strategy rather than a restriction of movement in order to stop the spread of EI into other parts of Australia. We have a stud in Victoria and I naturally have concerns it will, in time, also become a victim of EI.”

Tait isn't the only one concerned about the spread. Leading Randwick trainer John O'Shea said containment had failed and it is time to vaccinate. "This will spread out to Rosehill and Warwick Farm very soon and unless we vaccinate right now, racing will stop there and the foals in the Hunter will be wiped out."

The DPI is still resisting vaccination, which will cost approximately $200 per horse.