Equine Health Care

HORSE OWNERS ADVISED TO BE VIGILANT FOLLOWING RECENT EQUINE INFLUENZA OUTBREAKS

By Animal Health Trust

The Animal Health Trust (AHT) is advising horse owners to be extra vigilant following recent outbreaks of equine influenza...

The Animal Health Trust (AHT) is advising horse owners to be extra vigilant following recent outbreaks of equine influenza.

(EI) across parts of the UK and northern Europe in both vaccinated and unvaccinated horses.

The AHT is encouraging horse owners to be aware of the clinical signs of EI which include harsh, dry coughing, nasal discharge, lethargy and an increase in temperature (>38.5°c). These clinical signs may be mild and not all horses will present with all of these. If a horse owner is concerned they should consult their vet as soon as possible who can take a swab and blood sample and send it for testing, free of laboratory charges, to the Animal Health Trust’s equine influenza surveillance scheme which is funded by the Horserace Betting Levy Board.

Equine flu is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the equine influenza virus. The virus is spread from horse to horse via respiratory droplets by direct contact as well as coughing and via indirect contact where appropriate biosecurity is not being followed. The virus relies on this transmission to new horses to survive and one of the most notable features of flu is the very quick spread of clinical signs in groups of horses and its ability to spread large distances in the air. Therefore horse owners are encouraged to consider their existing biosecurity arrangements in their yard. This includes ensuring they practice good general hygiene and isolating any horses showing flu-like signs. The AHT is also recommending horse owners re-vaccinate their horse if their vaccination was carried out over 6 months ago, in order to maximise the chance of having protective immunity.

Dr Richard Newton, Director of Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance, at the Animal Health Trust, said “With frequent movement of horses and an ability to spread without direct contact, equine flu might appear at any time and in any location. With the increase in cases in both vaccinated and unvaccinated horses, we would urge all horse owners to be extremely vigilant and to follow recommended guidelines on how to detect and prevent the spread of this infectious disease. If horse owners are concerned they should contact their vet immediately for advice.”

Advice on equine flu, including information on precautions horse owners can take can be found at www.equiflunet.org.uk

The Animal Health Trust is an independent charity, employing over 250 scientists, vets and support workers. It aims to improve the health and welfare of horses, dogs and cats through research. It also provides specialist referral services and continuous education to vets. Visit our website at www.aht.org.uk

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