10/08/2007 12:00AM

Australian influenza outbreak spreading

EmailAustralia's first outbreak of equine influenza is continuing to spread in New South Wales, most recently prompting a lockdown at the Rosehill racecourse near Sydney on Saturday after a number of horses there received positive tests for the highly contagious respiratory disease.

The affected horses at Rosehill had received the first of two vaccines against equine influenza eight days earlier and were due to receive the second-stage booster shot this week, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Equine influenza is rarely fatal but spreads rapidly among horses. The Australian outbreak began in a population of shuttle stallions quarantined near Sydney. At least one of the stallions had traveled from Japan, where an influenza outbreak caused authorities to shut down racetracks earlier this summer. The Australian outbreak also has prompted quarantine lockdowns at racetracks and farms in New South Wales and Queensland, but it so far has not spread to Victoria, the state that hosts Australia's famed Melbourne Cup racing festival in early November.

But many Australian breeders protest that the two sales are now too close together, opening a round of talks between Thoroughbred Breeders Australia and both auction houses. The parties are scheduled to meet at the end of the week, according to John Messara, chairman of the breeders' group.