“Simple but important” message to Thai owners amid African horse sickness outbreak

Detail from an ICWE brochure on protecting equids from African Horse Sickness.
Detail from an ICWE brochure on protecting equids from African Horse Sickness.

A coalition of equine charities has moved to help horse and donkey owners in Thailand following the outbreak of African horse sickness in the country.

The deadly disease has never been seen in Thailand before; it is caused by a virus and transmitted by infected biting insects. The outbreak was first seen in a group of racehorses in March, with at least 42 deaths. Since then, media reports estimate more than 500 horses have succumbed to the disease.

The response by the International Coalition of Working Equids (ICWE) has been swift in a bid to provide informative posters, showing working equine owners signs of disease to watch for and how best to protect their equids, to try to stop the disease spreading across Asia. Working equids are of great importance to the livelihoods of communities in the Asia Pacific.

It is reported that African horse sickness has already spread across six provinces in Thailand. The response by the Thai government to contain the outbreak has been supported by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the intergovernmental organisation responsible for improving animal health and welfare worldwide.

ICWE members Brooke, The Donkey Sanctuary, SPANA and World Horse Welfare, work with rural communities around the world. They support working equids and the people who depend on them for their livelihoods. The coalition has produced five illustrated posters aimed at working equid owners.

African Horse Sickness is a deadly disease that is endemic in large parts of Africa and can infect all equids. The disease is not contagious and does not spread by close contact between equids but is transmitted when infected biting insects feed. The disease can be carried over large distances (150km across land and up to 700km over sea) by these insect vectors.

Ian Cawsey, ICWE Chair and Director of Advocacy at The Donkey Sanctuary, said all ICWE partners were working hard to protect as many equids as possible by getting simple but important messages out in the affected areas.

“Working equids are an integral part of their communities and all will suffer if the outbreak is not contained.”

The disease affects species of equines differently. In horses, it is often fatal, killing 90-95% of those infected. Donkeys can be severely affected but often display milder forms of the disease or may carry the virus without showing signs of illness.

ICWE aims to help implement the OIE international Standard for the welfare of working equids, as well as encourage ongoing improvements to the welfare for working equids across the globe. It formed as a coalition to improve communications with the OIE and other international organisations.


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