Restrictions applied as African Horse Sickness flares

April 2, 2009

South Africa has applied horse movement restricions in its Western Cape region due to outbreaks of African Horse Sickness (AHS) across South Africa.

The Chief Directorate of Veterinary Services in the Western Cape announced on Monday that immediate restrictions covering all horse movements into the Western Cape African Horse Sickness control area from all other provinces.

The restrictions have been instituted because of the increasing number of reported and suspicious cases of the disease in the rest of South Africa, said Western Cape Agriculture Minister Cobus Dowry.

"Horse owners are thus strongly discouraged from attempting to move horses from anywhere in the infected zone into the Western Cape control area as the risk of transmitting the disease is increasing daily.

"An outbreak in the AHS control area can potentially result in the death of many horses as well as place our export status in jeopardy, possibly leading to a two-year ban by the European Industry and causing major financial and physical losses to the equine industry as a whole."

The control area protects South Africa's export zone, which must remain free of the disease in order for crucial markets such as the European Union to accept horses from the country.

News of movement restrictions within the control area comes amid reports of more than 140 cases of African Horse Sickness in the KwaZulu-Natal region, resulting in more than 100 deaths.

Other provinces experiencing high numbers of cases were Mpumalanga and Limpopo.

Under the fresh restrictions, horses can only entered the Western Cape control zones from anywhere in South Africa only after spending three weeks in Beaufort West under state veterinarian supervision.

Horses must also comply with AHS protocols for movements prior to leaving any such restricted areas.

Western Cape Veterinary Officials warn that it is the highest risk period in the year for AHS in South Africa and horse owners in close proximity to outbreaks are advised to: