Biosecurity risks in Queensland

Thoroughbred Breeders Queensland is lobbying the State Government against the imminent closure of the Animal Disease Surveillance Laboratory in Toowoomba.

The TBQA believes the closure of the regional laboratory poses a real risk to biosecurity in Queensland and to the equine industry in the State.

In a press release issued on Monday, the Association said it understands the government position to outsource routine diagnostics procedures to the private sector but it’s of utmost importance that Government-funded surveillance work for exotic and emerging equine disease continues.

Surveillance testing for potentially zoonotic diseases such as Leptospirosis, Salmonellosis, Henipaviruses, Japanese Encephalitis, Ross River Fever as well as West Nile Virus and Kunjin Virus are vital to protect the equine industry in Queensland as well as the health of the general public.

ADSL plays a vital role in detecting and diagnosing Equine Herpes Virus (EHV) through foal necropsies.  Abortion storms caused by EHV can lead to a significant economic loss to individual studs and the industry as a whole.  It’s important to note that these diseases are readily transferred from horses to humans.

The TBWA said samples and autopsies can be performed at the Brisbane centre; however, the Association claims that will not occur because farmers and stud managers will not incur the costs or hassles with the logistics of transporting deceased animals to Brisbane.  There is also the problem of the animal further deteriorating during the extended travel time especially in the warmer months.

Without such autopsies and samples it will be difficult to adequately diagnose any new or emerging diseases and ensure that any potential outbreaks are controlled immediately.  Such delayed analysis could have a disastrous effect on not just the equine industry, but on human lives if it is a transferable disease such as Hendra Virus.

Victoria provides the perfect example of the failed bureaucratic system when the Benalla pathology lab was closed and testing was moved to Attwood in Melbourne.  There is now fewer tests being conducted and delays in samples being returned.

No courier company would transport aborted foetuses and it was extremely difficult logistically to get samples from North East Victoria down to the Attwood Laboratory.  The same will apply in south west Queensland.

The ADSL has a close working relationship with veterinarians in the field and this ‘local surveillance knowledge’ is likely to be lost by any centralisation of service to the capital city.

With this closure obviously being a cost cutting measure, the TBQA has urged the State Government to consider this:

The relative small operational costs that a functional laboratory such as the ADSL needs is far cheaper than the millions of dollars that would be required to manage exotic disease outbreaks; not to mention the potentially crippling effects on the State’s economy as was the case with Equine Influenza.  And the possible loss of human life goes well beyond any monetary value.

The TBQA believed the Liberal-National Party would be more sympathetic to the agricultural industry and would be understanding of the high importance this Laboratory provides to not only South West Queensland, but the entire State.  Unfortunately that does not appear to be the case.

The TBQA has written to Agriculture Minister John McVeigh asking him reconsider the decision in the best interests of the safety of all Queenslanders.