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Defra is reviewing regulations surrounding equine disease outbreaks after four horses contracted equine infectious anaemia (EIA or swamp fever) in the UK last year.

The department has identified 18 lessons to be learned from the outbreaks, including the setting up of a group comprising horse industry figures, to advise Defra and government agency Animal Health in the advent of a disease outbreak, as well as a review of post-import checks.

Lessons learnt

  • The culling option needs to be reviewed and the operations manual updated
  • Risk assessment for the transportation of EIA infected carcasses needs to be carried out
  • Animal Health (AH) selection of import consignments requiring document checks, clinical inspection and sampling must be reviewed
  • Veterinary capability for sampling and handling techniques needs reviewing
  • Communication between Defra/AH and local vets needs to improve in an outbreak
  • National Epidemiology Emergency Group needs to be reviewed and the findings of the group implemented
  • Communications with local authorities need to improve
  • Moves towards setting up an equine core group — advisers to help AH better understand the wide range of horse owners and keepers — must continue
  • Equine industry to be representated at meetings of the National Disease Control Centre
  • Public to be told location but not name and address in the event of an outbreak
  • Defra/AH to increase information about reporting suspected notifiable disease for vets and keepers
  • Review dangers of not having a comprehensive database with location of horses. Look for solutions to improve record keeping and access to passport information
  • Defra to look at producing an EIA control strategy
  • AH should review need for extra veterinary training in new and emerging diseases
  • Defra and AH must ensure procedures relating to case conferences are understood by all involved
  • Standard terms of reference should be drawn-up for pre-confirmation outbreak timetables
  • AH needs to add reviewed guidance on cleaning and disinfection to equine section of operations manual
  • Defra to consider movement licences that may be necessary in future outbreaks — ie to move horses to fresh grazing

    For the full news story on what lessons have been learnt from equine infectious anaemia, see Horse & Hound (21 April, 2011)

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