Neglected animal flu viruses to be explored

December 22, 2009

Experts will gather in Florida in February for an international symposium on neglected influenza viruses in animals, including several presentations on horse flu.

The three-day gathering, being organised by the International Society for Influenza and other Respiratory Diseases, comes when flu is in the news, with an outbreak of the novel swine-like H1N1 virus infecting millions of people worldwide.

The virus has also been detected in pigs and there are a handful of cases showing it is capable of infecting cats, dogs and ferrets.

The organisers said: "We are acutely aware that pigs and man can exchange influenza viruses and the effect in both species can be extensive.

"Perhaps not as well recognized are the historical, observational, and experimental data suggesting that equine influenza viruses may also infect man and thus have the potential for a generation of pandemic viruses."

The symposium will examine swine and equine influenza data and also consider what roles, if any, canine influenza and marine mammal influenza might play in new epidemics and epizootics.

It will explore data on influenza viruses in lower mammals "that have generally received less surveillance and research efforts".

The keynote address will be given by David Morens, of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, in Maryland. His address is entitled: Historical Thoughts on Influenza Ecosystems, or behold a Pale Horse, Dead Dogs, Failing Fowl and Sick Swine.

Specific equine presentations include one by Ann Cullinane, head of virology at the Irish Equine Centre, in Johnstown, Naas, in County Kildare. Her address is entitled: Equine Influenza - A Constantly Evolving Challenge

Thomas Vahlenkamp, of the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut Federal Research Institute for Animal Health, in Riems, Germany, will deliver a summary of the experimental and observational studies of equine, feline and canine influenza viruses

The symposium includes an address on the cost of animal influenza by Peter Kirkland, senior principal research scientist, and officer in charge of the Virology Laboratory, Elizabeth Macarthur Agriculture Institute, Menangle, in New South Wales, Australia.

Thomas Chambers, from the Department of Veterinary Science at the Gluck Equine Research Center, University of Kentucky, will talk on equine influenza virology.

Alan Guthrie, of the University of Pretoria, South Africa, will cover the control of equine influenza in South Africa.