From the Horse’s Mouth: Perceptions of the Management of the 2007 Equine Influenza Outbreak in Australia

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Abstract

In August 2007, Australia experienced its first-ever outbreak of equine influenza, a highly infectious respiratory disease of horses. Although the outbreak spread over a large geographic area, it was eradicated within 5 months following a substantial disease control effort led by federal and state animal health authorities. Despite its timely control, this large-scale outbreak caused severe impacts on horse owners and industry participants. This study aimed to describe the perceptions of horse owners and managers, impacted by outbreak control measures, regarding the state government’s animal health authority outbreak management. Participants were interviewed face-to-face. Factors associated with ordinal ratings of perception (‘well managed’, ‘adequately managed’ and ‘poorly managed’) were identified using ordinal logistic regression. Factors significantly associated with a reduced likelihood of ‘well-managed’ outbreak response ratings, adjusted for age and gender, were being involved in horse competitions/sporting events (OR = 0.48; 95% CI: 0.25–0.91), managing a horse stud (OR = 0.09; 95% CI: 0.03–0.28) and believing that another outbreak of equine influenza was highly likely in the next 5 years (OR = 0.29; 95% CI: 0.12–0.68). Possible reasons for these ratings were further investigated using content analyses. Outbreak communications and government efficiency/support were mentioned most frequently as both strengths (30% and 28%, respectively) and weaknesses (40% and 30%, respectively) of the outbreak management. To promote manager–government rapport and future compliance with disease control regulations, we recommend that outbreak communications and outbreak information systems be reviewed.

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