Equine flu remains significant threat to British horses, charity says

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The equine influenza virus is spread from horse to horse via respiratory droplets by direct contact as well as coughing and via indirect contact where appropriate biosecurity is not being followed.

Horse owners in Britain are urged to remain vigilant and take all necessary precautions to minimise the threat of equine influenza, as outbreaks of the disease continue to occur nationwide.

The Animal Health Trust continues to confirm outbreaks of the disease, with last week seeing the second highest number of confirmed outbreaks in one week since the start of 2019.

The trust’s director of epidemiology and disease surveillance, Dr Richard Newton, says the competition season is getting into its busiest period, and the number of outbreaks is likely to continue to rise with the movement of horses across the country.

“Flu is still as much of a threat as it was earlier this year,” he said.

“Our advice to horse owners remains the same; be aware of the clinical signs of equine influenza and boost your horse’s vaccination if it was given more than six months ago. Importantly, isolate new arrivals on your yard and continue to practice good biosecurity at competitions and at home.”

Equine flu is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the equine influenza virus. The virus is spread from horse to horse via respiratory droplets by direct contact as well as coughing and via indirect contact where appropriate biosecurity is not being followed.

Britain's Animal Health Trust has tested thousands of racehorses for equine flu.
Britain’s Animal Health Trust has tested thousands of racehorses for equine flu. © Animal Health Trust

The virus relies on this transmission to new horses to survive and one of the most notable features of flu is the very quick spread of clinical signs in groups of horses and its ability to spread large distances in the air.

“We are still urging all competition and event organisers to support vaccination within six months in order to maximise the chance of horses having protective immunity,” Newton said.

“If all parts of the equestrian community pull together we stand a much better chance of containing these outbreaks which show no sign of abating.”

Advice on equine flu, including information on precautions horse owners can take, can be found at www.equiflunet.org.uk.

 

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