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A serious equine disease has returned to the Continent, causing welfare agencies to be on a heightened state of alert.

Dourine, a notifiable disease transmitted during covering that can be fatal in 50-75% of cases, was first discovered in two horses on the island of Sicily in May, before spreading to a horse in mainland Italy last week. One of the horses was put down, with the others remain critically ill.

There have never been any cases of dourine in the UK, but World Horse Welfare is monitoring the situation as it is the first outbreak in Europe for many years. All horse exports from Sicily have been halted and officials are investigating the source of the outbreak.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (23 June, 2011)