New Strain of Equine Influenza Responsible for Outbreak
The Animal Health Trust (AHT) has confirmed that the current equine influenza outbreak has been caused by a new strain of the virus, Florida Clade 1 H3N8.
The increasing numbers of those diagnosed with equine influenza, follows the identification of the disease at a a yard in Cheshire, in the beginning of February. Despite best efforts to control the disease, there are currently 29 reported flu outbreaks, in 17 counties across England and Scotland.
Equine influenza is an endemic in the UK, meaning that cases are always expected to be seen circulating within the population. The new strain means further development of the current flu vaccine with have to take place but does not rule out the importance of the current vaccine, providing better protection against the disease.
The charity are continuing to advise vaccinations every six months, during this worrying period. A statement published by the AHT, reassured;
Vaccinated horses should have a level of protection to this new strain. If vaccinated horses are exposed to the virus, clinical signs should be milder and they should get better faster than an unvaccinated horse. This has been demonstrated in the vaccinated cases seen so far this year. We continue to emphasise the importance of vaccination in protecting horses against equine flu."
The AHT have also issued further advisory protocols to help prevent the spread of the disease. Protocols are;
Vaccinate – boost your horse’s vaccination if it was given more than six months ago and encourage others to do the same. If your horse is not vaccinated, it will need to start a course of vaccinations and will not have protection until two weeks after the second vaccine in the course is given.
Isolate – what biosecurity measures are in place at your own yard? Immediately isolate new or unwell horses away from the main yard to help prevent the disease spreading. Flu is easily spread amongst a group of horses. Make sure you know your own biosecurity policies, and if you’re not sure ask the yard owners and managers.
Investigate – if you’re planning to attend an event or equine gathering, speak to the organisers and ask about their biosecurity policies – what is in place to minimise the spread of disease at the event / gathering? If you are not comfortable with what is in place, don’t attend!
Communicate – we encourage vets and horse owners to be open if they have a suspected or confirmed outbreak, to help minimise the spread of flu to others.
Mitigate – horse owners are encouraged to do all they can to know the risk of moving their horse or attending an event. Gather as much information as you can to enable you to mitigate against the risk and make your own sensible decision based on this.
The AHT’s Director of Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance, Dr Richard Newton, continues to emphasise;
If you suspect flu, please speak to your vet. We are unable to offer you specific advice as every situation has so many varying factors. Your vet is best placed to give your relevant and useful advice. Thank you.”
[avatar user="AbbyDickinson" size="medium" align="center" link="file"]Everything Horse News Reporter, Abby Dickinson[/avatar]