French show continues amid heightened flu measures

Belgium's Gregory Wathelet and Euphony Cadjanine Z were part of the winning Nations Cup team at La Baule yesterday. The show is continuing as scheduled. © Jean Morel/FEI

Two horses at La Baule, France, have returned positive results in an especially sensitive test for equine influenza, but officials describe the health risk as low. The major show, which hosted the FEI Nations Cup competition yesterday, will continue.

The La Baule organising committee’s veterinary advisers and the FEI have been monitoring horses at the French event following a confirmed case of equine flu in a horse that was competing in Le Touquet, France, last weekend.

Precautionary testing on some horses was undertaken at La Baule, using a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) swab test. This is an especially sensitive forensic type test for viral infections.

It looks for parts of the influenza virus, but is not an indicator that the virus is active, inactive, capable of producing disease, or that a horse is a risk to other horses.

The FEI said equine flu is commonly found throughout the world on this type of test in healthy horses.

The tests at La Baule resulted in PCR positive results in two horses. None of the horses in La Baule, including the two PCR positive horses, are showing any signs of fever or any symptoms of disease.

To minimise an already low risk, the La Baule organising committee, in agreement with the FEI, will remove the two PCR positive horses from the showgrounds, as well as four horses that have been handled by the same grooms.

In addition, all other horses from the same stable block will be moved to a separate isolation facility on the showgrounds.

“There are no sick horses at La Baule, and neither of the horses that had a positive PCR test have shown any symptoms at all,” FEI veterinary director Graeme Cooke said.

“These measures, that could be viewed as being excessive, have been put in place after consultation with all parties involved to ensure the health status of all the horses at La Baule.

“We have been in constant contact with the OIE (World Animal Health Organisaiton) global expert on equine influenza, who has fully approved the measures taken.

“All horses attending FEI events must comply with a strict vaccination policy of being vaccinated within the last six months. This comprehensively reduces any possible risk. Equine influenza is not an exotic virus. It is endemic in most parts of the world.”

The FEI said it was continuing to monitor the situation with the the La Baule organising committee and veterinary advisers.

The La Baule competition schedule remains unchanged, with Saturday’s first class starting at 10.30am.

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