“Systemic failings” revealed by investigation into horse sport’s EHV-1 outbreak

The first of a three-part report evaluates what was done correctly and identifies where there were failings, and lessons learned.
The first of a three-part report into last year’s EHV-1 outbreak in Europe evaluates what was done correctly and identifies where there were failings, and lessons learned.

The first part of a three-part report on the FEI’s investigation into the outbreak of the neurological form of Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1) in Spain in February 2021 has been released.

The outbreak resulted in the deaths of 18 horses in mainland Europe and confirmed related cases in nine other countries: Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Qatar, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland.

The publication of the report follows the pledge by the FEI to have a comprehensive and fully transparent investigation into every aspect of the outbreak and to make the findings public. The investigation has shown that there were systemic failures in several areas.

The report provides a comprehensive and factual picture of the outbreak, including the series of events, causes, roles and responsibilities, and analysis. It evaluates what was done correctly and identifies where there were failings, and lessons learned.

The 39-page Report, plus 96 pages of Annexes, has been produced by FEI Veterinary Director Dr Göran Åkerström and Grania Willis, former FEI Communications Director and now Executive Consultant to the FEI. There has also been input from the FEI Veterinary Epidemiology Working Group and other veterinary experts, FEI President Ingmar De Vos and Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez and the FEI Veterinary and Legal Departments.

The next part of the report, covering the measures implemented to allow Return to Competition following the six-week FEI-imposed lockdown on international sport in mainland Europe, will be published in advance of the FEI Sports Forum 2022 (April 25-26). It will also focus on the EHV-1 By-Laws and sanctioning system, and evaluate their effectiveness.

The third and final part of the report looking at the way forward, including potential global vaccination protocols, will be presented at the FEI Sports Forum. Professor Lutz Goehring, a world-renowned specialist in equine infectious diseases and particularly EHV at the Gluck Equine Research Center, will present his findings on the benefits and drawbacks of vaccination, focusing on the scientific evidence of whether mandatory vaccination against EHV-1 is protective against outbreaks at FEI Events.

FEI President Ingmar De Vos described the report as “a significant body of work which offers a forensic examination of all elements of the outbreak.”

“It is clear that mistakes were made and we all need to learn from them so we ensure that we never have an outbreak of such devastating impact again.

“There has to be accountability and everyone – including the FEI – has to take their share of responsibility. The significance of the investigation findings and the report itself has been brought into sharper focus by the current outbreak in the United States, once again highlighting the fact that there will never be zero risk with EHV,” De Vos said.

“What we must do at every event and in every home barn is to ensure that correct biosecurity measures are in place for the safety of our horses. And we now have the tools to do that, provided we work together as a community to ensure enforcement and compliance.”


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