BEF Steps Up Fight Against Infectious Diseases

New Strain of Equine Influenza Responsible for Outbreak

BEF Steps Up Fight Against Infectious Diseases

The British Equestrian Federation (BEF) have announced they are stepping up their work surrounding the prevention of infectious disease spread across UK horses, after the recent equine influenza outbreak.

In recent weeks, the equine influenza outbreak caused a halt to racing, under the British Horseracing Authority’s (BHA) and further precautionary measures by some event holders. However, in light of the situation, the outbreak also highlighted how vital owner knowledge can be to equine disease spread and demonstrated the importance of vaccinations to horse health.

From the equine influenza outbreak, the BEF recognised that an outbreak of other infectious diseases may be more consequential to horse health and have greater impact on the industry. More harmful disease outbreaks may cause mandatory movement restrictions, which may cause disruption of sporting body calendar’s and event, further risking the economics of the sport. Additionally, some equine diseases pose threat to human health, unlike equine influenza.

To protect the future health of the UK’s equine population and industry, the BEF have constructed a plan, which has been met with wide support, if another harmful disease outbreak were to occur.

Jane Nixon, BEF Board Director and Consultant Equine Veterinary Surgeon, explained the need for collective thoughts on disease control, stating;

Our message is simple: to promote good habits to prevent disease spread in the horse and subsequently incursion on human health & wellbeing. I believe that when we work together, and take collective responsibility, that can be a very powerful tool in enhancing disease prevention.”

Nixon and major stakeholders in the equine industry gathered to contribute to the disease approach. Those of who attended include; the Animal Health Trust, British Equine Veterinary Association, Thoroughbred Breeders Association, BHA, British Horse Society, British Dressage, British Eventing, British Showjumping, The Hunting Office, the Worshipful Company of Farriers together with representatives from Polo and equine charities.

The meeting lead to the agreement that two approaches will be taken toward future outbreak;

  • Education of all equine owners on how best to prevent the spread of disease.
  • The establishment of a COBRA- style Emergency Response Group for rapid response in event of an outbreak.

The Emergency Response Group was brought together during this year’s equine influenza outbreak. The group consists of representatives from the BEF, British Dressage, British Eventing, British Showjumping. Experts in epidemiology, equine flu and those with previous experience of managing disease outbreaks also formed part of the group. During the equine influenza outbreak, the group met regularly to monitor the spread of the outbreak and ensure that horse owners were educated on tackling the disease. The BEF hope further establishment of this group will prove effective against equine disease management in the UK.

Chief Executive of the BEF, Nick Fellows, further commented on the how the Emergency Response Group have and will aid efforts surrounding disease outbreak; 

The recent equine flu outbreak demonstrated the importance of providing up-to-date accurate information to equine owners. The swift, coordinated actions of the Emergency Response Group helped mitigate the spread of the disease. The BEF has shown its commitment to tackling infectious diseases and we feel confident that we can build on these initial steps to safeguard biosecurity in UK horses in the face of the very real threat from infectious and, in some cases, fatal diseases. I would also like to thank Jane Nixon for bringing so many sections of the equine community together so we can be sure of a co-ordinated response to this threat.”

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