August 29, 2007 11:58 PM   Subscribe

The Royal Randwick Racecourse has been locked down. At least 8 horses have tested positive for equine flu. It is predicted that 700 horses will contract the virus. [more inside]
posted by gomichild (32 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Transportation of horses has been restricted within Australia. It is likely that the spring racing carnival in NSW will be formally cancelled, with many concerned that even the Melbourne Cup will not go ahead.

It is suspected that the virus was transferred from Japan, where racing has been halted after 20 horses tested positive for equine flu. In other rumours, a Sydney vet has been accused of allowing it to spread further.

Importation of animals is a very strict process in Australia. Even a cat with a clean bill of health from a country considered disease-free can expect to be quarantined for 30 days. The fact that a disease such as equine flu has escaped and spread is a big shock for many.

Not only has racing in Australia been affected. 6 NSW police horses have also tested positive. As for racing in other countries - the Phillipines and New Zealand are refusing to allow entry to any Australian horses - which is expected to affect both racing and breeding programmes.
posted by gomichild at 11:58 PM on August 29, 2007

Yeah, the whole place is in an uproar. Everybody is .. hey, wait a minute

/scratches head
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 12:45 AM on August 30, 2007

Here's an opinion piece by Phil McManus (a uni lecturer of mine) on how globalisation relates to this.
posted by Serial Killer Slumber Party at 12:56 AM on August 30, 2007

A horse died. The Spring Carnival has been cancelled.
posted by robcorr at 12:59 AM on August 30, 2007

Thanks for the link Serial Killer Slumber Party. It answered one of the questions which popped up in my head while researching this: why transport the entire horse just for impregnation? The answer being:

The issue is that artificial insemination, cloning and embryo transfer are banned in thoroughbred breeding and racing. If an animal is not conceived by a natural mating and born from the womb of the same mare it is not registered in the stud book. An unregistered animal cannot race nor be used for breeding.

The racing industry might want to re-think this position in light of what is happening right now.
posted by gomichild at 1:02 AM on August 30, 2007

oh noes Mister would you PLEASE help my poney?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:22 AM on August 30, 2007

Yeah, the whole place is in an uproar. Everybody is .. hey, wait a minute

/scratches head
posted by Henry C. Mabuse

This situation will effect a lot of people. The racing industry employs something like 45,000 people in NSW alone. At the top you've got your trainers and jockeys, and the vets that take care of them as well as your bookmakers. This goes all the way down to casuals who work in the industry as a means of supporting themselves. Jockeys and trainers and such have insurance preventing them from losing too much income in a situation like this - but your casuals and the other little people don't. The cancellation of the Spring Carnival (one of the busiest times of the year) means that these people will lose hundreds, even thousands, of dollars on income that they pretty much rely on during the 4-8 weeks of cancelled racing. The follow on will impact on other industries - lost revenue in gambling, fashion, and the many other industries that have an association with racing. Hell, I just heard a news reports about fears that people are going to turn to illegal online gambling as a result of the cancelled racing. There are also people that will lose their jobs as their employers will no longer be able to afford to pay their wages.

This is no little hiccup, and the industry will be damaged for a while, and will take a significant period of time to recover. Several of the contenders for the Melbourne Cup are stabled at Randwick, and are now out of contention - this will have huge impacts on the quality of the race, as well as the willingness of overseas trainers to bring their horses across to race, having even more impact on the racing industry in Australia.

/end rant.

Disclaimer: I am a student who works as a casual in the industry - my shifts for next month have been cancelled, and I don't expect to get any for October. I am lucky in that I do have another source of income - but it is not a great feeling to know that this source is gone for the time of year where I really depend on it.
posted by cholly at 2:43 AM on August 30, 2007

why transport the entire horse just for impregnation?

I heard some bloke explaining that artificial insemination has the detrimental effect of narrowing the gene pool of thoroughbreds. Something along the lines of - if you pop out thousands of offspring from one or two champion stallions through AI, then the gene pool gets restrcited to the offsping of those very few stallions. (Or something like that. It made a certain amount of sense when I heard him saying it)
Another reason he gave was that often people want to see the actual act of the horses "joining". When they're paying so much to have some champion horse shoot its jizz up their mare, just being told "trust me, it happened" isn't enough.
posted by bunglin jones at 3:15 AM on August 30, 2007

actually cholly Hank's comment was referring to this discussion on another site and wasn't referring with a lack of sympathy to the situation - sorry about the private joke

Yeah the consequences of a huge industry partially closing down isn't really being mentioned yet.
posted by gomichild at 3:18 AM on August 30, 2007

The weird thing about the whole issue for me, is how little explaining is being done.

When they first reported it, I had the flu. Really bad. In fact I'm still getting over it, so my first thought on the matter was basically "Awww poor ponies!".

But now we've got whole racing seasons cancelled, people losing their jobs, cattle in the bush going hungry because farmers can't use their horses to muster them, complete panic everywhere, news bullitens on the ABC leading with "horse flu" news... but nowhere have I heard any explanation of why it's so bad. What percentage of horses die from this? How quickly does it spread? Is it endemeic to any parts of the world? Can it be spread by non-equine hosts...humans even?

The panic is reaching Foot-and-Mouth or Mad Cow proportions, but I've never heard of horse flu being a problem before, and I imagine most other Australians haven't either.

Meanwhile, in another news story, the subprime mortgage problems in the stockmarket, I'm hearing constant analysis and explanation in simple 1-syllable words. Economic experts are on the radio every day. I have not heard one vet explaining horse flu. Hell, even this Metafilter post, with it's [more inside], doesn't really explain why the disease is so serious.

Maybe I've just been unlucky and haven't been reading the right newspapers or listening to the radio at the same time, but the whole thing strikes me as odd...some major, major news event happening, but no-one seems to want to take the time to explain why we should care.
posted by Jimbob at 3:26 AM on August 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

Hmm maybe I'm just confused because it's called the "flu".

If, instead of Equine Influenza, it was called Deadly Equine Unstoppable Killing Disease, I might not need so much justification to be worried.
posted by Jimbob at 3:33 AM on August 30, 2007

Well it seems that the flu is highly contagious. The link to equine flu Q& A from my post states:

It's not usually fatal, but horses may contract the likes of pneumonia and other serious complications as a result. It's spread through nasal discharge, and the coughing and snorting that go with most chest infections. It is highly contagious. The reactions of horses vary widely. Some develop only a fever and a cough, while others get very sick. It may take a horse a few months to completely recover to full fitness.

Also it's never appeared in Australia before so all the horses are much more at risk in regards to no immunity and the vets having little experience with it.
posted by gomichild at 3:36 AM on August 30, 2007


*votes for changing the name to: Deadly Equine Unstoppable Killing Disease*
posted by gomichild at 3:37 AM on August 30, 2007

Oooh missed that link, much more useful, cheers.
posted by Jimbob at 3:42 AM on August 30, 2007

Hank's comment was referring to this discussion on another site

Okay, sorry I may have over reacted to that. I suppose I'm just a little annoyed at the prospect of not having another shift until November.
posted by cholly at 3:58 AM on August 30, 2007

No worries sweetie. It must be very worrisome for you to have to deal with such sudden changes to your situation because of this.
posted by gomichild at 4:00 AM on August 30, 2007

posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 4:16 AM on August 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

Now jockeys are being "quarantined" (not allowed to ride in interstate races). Is this an over-reaction? There has never been a known case of human contraction or transference of equine flu.
posted by gomichild at 4:58 AM on August 30, 2007

gomichild: It is not a matter of human contraction of the diease, but how it is spread. If there is an infected horse's sweat on any of the jockey's equipment and it comes into contact with another horse, then it can be passed on - it is really that contagious. I suppose they're trying to contain it to NSW, but it does seem a little like an overreaction. I heard that even the trainers are being barred from interstae events, too.
posted by cholly at 5:24 AM on August 30, 2007

If the equine flu isn't prevalent there, then they're not vaccinated as most are in the US.

I'm not sure why they are limiting jockey movement, as there are many, many people who come in contact with them then travel to another barn. It is somewhat possible that a person could have the virus on their hand, and then transmit it to another horse, but someone with epidemiological knowledge would be a better judge. -but that part does seem odd unless the virus can live on a person for hours/days.

And, this isn't something that people catch from the horses. Maybe it's linked to the avian flu scare? They did impose a ban on import of bird feathers when it was in the news...

We were exhibiting at a horse show 15 yrs ago and the flu broke out. Even with our horses vaccinated, one of them still came down with it. (he was fine in a few weeks, but we took it easy on him for a couple of months) The show was almost cancelled since so many horses could not compete due to being sick. Also, many of the trainers administered off-label drugs (mistakenly) to the horses to "help", and of course they couldn't compete because they had drugs in their system. (random drug testing on horses is part of the rules.)

It is a highly contagious disease in horses - usually they get it through airborne particles (cough, sneeze). One interesting note is that a horse doesn't breath through their mouth that's for drinking/eating - their nostrils take in air to their lungs. So, it is a concern if their airway becomes clogged. We had a young mare bitten on the nose by a copperhead snake- the vet was quite concerned that the swelling would block her airway. (Anti-venoms are wonderful.)

I've heard nothing about it in the news here, but I'm not into horse racing. With the dollars spent in the horse industry, something like this will have all sorts of repercussions.
posted by mightshould at 5:56 AM on August 30, 2007

Many families will be so thankful for this. No gambling. Food on the table for a change, money for rent and clothes. This industry is rotten. It preys.
posted by tellurian at 6:00 AM on August 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

But as cholly has said it also provides work for many other families. Also it is not just the racing industry that's affected - but police work, farm work and even people who keep and train horses for the pleasure of it.

Plus the dog races and every other form of gambling aren't affected.

It's seems that you have an upsetting personal experience on this front tellurian.
posted by gomichild at 6:17 AM on August 30, 2007

The good/bad argument about animal racing is quite a can of worms. There's both animal abuse and human abuse that are a part of the issue, plus collateral damage.
I have my own personal opinion about the industry, which belongs in another disscussion. Lump into it other entertainment/sporting/gambling etc. industries and we have a thread that can go for a long, long time.
posted by mightshould at 6:31 AM on August 30, 2007

For more info on equine flu/spread here's a link. Or type it in...
posted by mightshould at 6:49 AM on August 30, 2007

gomichild: Have you no idea of the damage caused by the gambling industry on the general populace?
posted by tellurian at 6:57 AM on August 30, 2007

The gambling industry sucks. Is it really okay to provide jobs if what you're doing is fundamentally scumbaggery?

I mean, just because operating an infant cannery would provide jobs doesn't make it okay to open an infant cannery, and yet you'd have people going "Well, the infant cannery provides so many jobs!"
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:00 AM on August 30, 2007

As mightshould remarked this isn't the place for a pro/con discussion about gambling and the role that the racing industry plays in that, nor was it my intention to get into a discussion along those lines.
posted by gomichild at 7:00 AM on August 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

Those POOR NEDDIES, you fackers!!!!
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 7:28 AM on August 30, 2007

I would also like to say that I love the thread title.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:01 AM on August 30, 2007

Gambling does suck. It's a tax on that proportion of the population who are bad at statistics. But I'd argue that the racing industry isn't the most destructive form of gambling in Austrlaia.

I'd also argue that there are lots of uses of horses in Australia other than horse racing. Police horses, horses on stations (ranches) for mustering, just general private ownership for riding. There are also a hell of a lot of feral horses out there.

So drawing a direct link between horse flu and the evils of the dice is a little bit of a long shot, tellurian.
posted by Jimbob at 1:47 PM on August 30, 2007

A long shot! You betcha, a billion dollar long shot.
"Interstate TABs and bookies nationwide lost more than $150 million as authorities cancelled all racing for the first time in memory.
The NSW TAB stood to lose $1 billion in betting turnover if the ban lasted for two months, Racing NSW chief executive Peter V'Landys said."

posted by tellurian at 4:19 PM on August 30, 2007

nor was it my intention to get into a discussion along those lines

Not that anyone asked. Perhaps you're in the wrong thread?
posted by ryanrs at 7:38 PM on August 30, 2007

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