Equine Influenza Outbreak
The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has cancelled racing at all British racecourses today after learning of three equine influenza cases from vaccinated horses in an active racing yard.
The fact that the cases have been identified in vaccinated horses presents a cause for concern over the potential spread of the disease and the action to cancel racing has been viewed as necessary in order to restrict the risk of further spread of the disease and ensure no further cases exist.
The outbreak at the infected yard follows the identification of a number of equine influenza cases in the general horse population across Europe and in the UK, including several in vaccinated horses. The other recent UK cases have been both unvaccinated and vaccinated, not in the racehorse population. Following these recent outbreaks, guidance was sent to all UK racehorse trainers advising them that horses who have not had a vaccination against equine influenza within the last six months receive a booster, and that all horse owners should be extra-vigilant with biosecurity.
About Equine Influenza
Equine influenza is a highly infectious respiratory disease of horses, mules and donkeys (and zebras!). Equine influenza signs include a high temperature (over 38.5/101.3F), dry cough, white/clear nasal discharge, depression and loss of appetite. Vaccinated horses are typically unaffected or show only mild signs, although if infected they can still shed virus. Unvaccinated horses are most at risk and will spread the disease rapidly. Unvaccinated horses are also at significant risk of secondary bacterial respiratory infections, that may be more severe than the influenza.
What should horse owners do?
Monitor your horses for signs of any infectious disease. If you see any of the influenza signs mentioned above isolate the horse and call your vet immediately.
Isolate any new horses entering your yard for 2 weeks. Isolation facilities for potential influenza cases would ideally be 100 metres from other horses. Air-borne spread is significant and can occur over large distances with optimal weather conditions.
Always obey good hygiene/biosecurity. Please see the attached very useful yard health check list (kindly produced by the British Equine Veterinary Association), print this and follow it!
All horses should be vaccinated for equine influenza, ideally including the Florida Clade 1 strain (recent cases have all been Clade 1). If your horse is currently vaccinated, but it has been longer than 6 months since the last vaccination a booster will provide additional protection. This is our advice given the current situation.
Any horses showing clinical signs, or that have been in contact with potentially infected horses, should not travel to competitions or other events where there will be groups of horses. If your horse has been in contact with an infected horse you should seek immediate veterinary advice.
If you have any concerns or questions please call your vet to discuss these.