Death toll climbs in African horse sickness outbreak in Thailand

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Adult female blood sucking midge, Culicoides imicola.
Adult female blood-sucking midge, Culicoides imicola. © Alan R Walker via Wikipedia / CC BY-SA

Officials in Thailand have reported two further outbreaks of deadly African horse sickness in the country, with the official death toll standing at 57.

However, media in Thailand report the toll now stands at well over 100.

The original notification to the World Organisation of Animal Health (OIE), dated March 27, reported 62 cases and 42 deaths in what is the first occurrence of the disease in the country.

The cases were in the area of Nong Sarai in the Pak Chong district of Nakhon Ratchasima province. A further 341 horses in the area are considered susceptible to the infection.

In its latest update, dated April 3, Thai officials report two further outbreaks. The first, in Hua Hin, in the province of Prachuap Khiri Khan, has involved 10 horses, all of whom died. Fifteen other horses in the area are considered susceptible.

The second outbreak is in Thai Bun Mi, in the Ko Chain district in Chonburi Province, where six cases involving five deaths have been reported. A further 33 horses are classed as susceptible.

Measures to date include the establishment of surveillance and containment zones, quarantine, disinfection, and other control measures to contain the biting insects responsible for the spread of the infection.

Local media are reporting at least 131 horse deaths from the disease across four provinces.

As well as enforcing containment measures, officials are trying to establish how the virus got into Thailand.

African horse sickness is endemic in sub-Saharan Africa and is spread by biting midges.

Horses are considered the most susceptible, with nearly 90% dying if infected. It kills roughly half of infected mules and 10% of donkeys. However, infected African donkeys and mules rarely show signs of disease.

Authorities in Thailand are clamping down on horse movements in a bid to contain the disease. The federation says anyone who sees the illicit movement of horses, or has a sick horse, should phone the livestock hotline on 063-2256888.

People are required to report any sudden death or suspected cases to the Department of Livestock Development.

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