Important Equine Influenza Update from the AHT

Equine Influenza update 2019

Equine Influenza remains a significant threat to the welfare of the UK horse population warns the Animal Health Trust (AHT). 

The AHT has advised horse owners to remain vigilant and take all necessary precautions to minimise the threat of equine influenza (EI); as outbreaks of the disease continue to occur nationwide.

The AHT is continuing to confirm outbreaks of the disease, with last week seeing the second highest number of confirmed outbreaks in one week since the start of 2019.

The 5 basic protocols are:

  1. Vaccinate: Boost your horse’s vaccination if it was given more than 6 months ago, and encourage others to do the same.
  2. Communicate: Be open! If you have a suspected or confirmed outbreak, tell others and help minimise the spread of EI.
  3. Isolate: Isolate new or unwell horses as EI is easily spread amongst a group of horses. Consider what biosecurity measures are in place at your own yard. Does this need updating?
  4. Investigate: If you suspect equine flu call your vet immediately OR on the flip side if you are considering attending an event, or equine gathering, contact the coordinator to ask about their biosecurity measures.
  5. Mitigate: Learn as much as you can and do all that you can to know the risk of moving your horse or attending an event.

Dr Richard Newton, Director of Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance, at the Animal Health Trust, said

As the competition season is getting into its busiest period the number of outbreaks is likely to continue to rise with the movement of horses across the country. Flu is still as much of a threat as it was earlier this year.  Our advice to horse owners remains the same; be aware of the clinical signs of equine influenza and boost your horse’s vaccination if it was given more than six months ago.  Importantly isolate new arrivals on your yard and continue to practice good biosecurity at competitions and at home”.

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.

Dr Newton added,

We are still urging all competition and event organisers to support vaccination within 6 months in order to maximise the chance of horses having protective immunity.  If all parts of the equestrian community pull together we stand a much better chance of containing these outbreaks which show no sign of abating.”

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

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