Britain’s equine flu surveillance boosted as Olympics near

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Dr Richard Newton
Dr Richard Newton

Efforts have been stepped up in a bid to ensure equine influenza does not pose a problem in the run-up to the London Olympics, following recent cases in Northwest France.

Britain’s governing bodies for horse sports have joined with the Animal Health Trust to minimise any risks associated with this disease between now and the July Games.

Transfer of equine flu can occur even in vaccinated horses.

The Animal Health Trust’s head of epidemiology and disease surveillance, Dr Richard Newton, says the accuracy of diagnosing the disease had greatly improved through the use of fast and sensitive viral detection methods used with respiratory samples – especially swabs from the nose and throat.

Newton has invited sport leaders and the veterinary profession to take advantage of the trust’s ongoing equine flu surveillance initiatives and established communications links with other notification systems to reduce the risk of equine flu’s incursion into Britain during the Olympic buildup.

“UK’s Thoroughbred racing and breeding industry has supported our World Organisation for Animal Health Laboratory initiatives through Horserace Betting Levy Board funding and now is the time for us all to make the most of the excellent systems we have,” Newton said.

“We feel that this heightened surveillance activity for what is probably the most potentially infectious and rapidly spreading equine infectious disease is particularly important at this time.”

The trust will provide swabs and viral transport containers to veterinary surgeons at no charge and no fees will be applied for the laboratory testing.

British Equestrian Federation chief executive Andrew Finding said his organisation was highly supportive of the initiative.

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