Thailand’s battle to contain African horse sickness continues

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The death toll from the outbreak of African horse sickness in Thailand stands at more than 150, according to media reports.

However, the confirmed death toll in Thailand’s latest update to the World Organisation for Animal Health, dated April 10, stands at less than half that, with five additional deaths confirmed since last week’s report.

The discrepancies will relate to delays in the official reporting of data and obtaining confirmation of the cause of death.

The country is fighting to contain the insect-borne virus, which kills a majority of the horses it infects.

Measures to contain the disease include the establishment of surveillance and containment zones, quarantine, movement restrictions, disinfection, and other control measures to contain the biting midges responsible for the spread of the infection.

Pictures have emerged on Facebook of stables being enclosed in plastic and being regularly fumigated in a bid to kill the biting insects, and keep them away from horses.

African horse sickness is endemic in sub-Saharan Africa.

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.

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

Deaths to date have been confined to six provinces, Nakhon Ratchasima, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chon Buri, Phetchaburi, Chaiyaphum and Ratchaburi.

Local media quote a Thai official as saying 154 horses have died among 835 horses kept at 32 farms across four of the provinces.

The worst-hit region is Nakhon Ratchasima’s Pak Chong district. This is where the first death was recorded.

Officials say controlling the movement of equines will be crucial in controlling the disease, with the area within a 150km of the outbreak area being most crucial.

The benefits and risks associated with the use of a vaccine are being considered by authorities.

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