March 13, 2008

Horse movements into the Western Cape province of South Africa have been halted following an outbreak of African Horse Sickness in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.

African Horse Sickness is a variant of the Bluetongue virus of sheep which is principally carried and transmitted to horses by Culicoides species midges.

It is endemic in the African continent and is characterised by clinical signs and lesions associated with respiratory and circulatory impairment. Up to 90% of infected horses die, and there is no efficient treatment. Prophylactic vaccines are available in Africa.

The current movement embargo was initiated to protect horses about to be exported.

There are currently 34 horses in South Africa's export facility, Kenilworth Quarantine Station. Once the horses have completed their 40 day pre-export quarantine on April 15, they will be transported by air to Europe. Included in this shipment are competition horses representing disciplines such as polo, endurance, various Olympic events and some racehorses.

All horse owners, transporters and associations/clubs are urged to exercise great caution when deciding to move horses from outbreak areas to those free of infection.