Vets are urging horse owners to vaccinate their horses against equine flu following recent outbreaks in the UK.

It is estimated by vets that 38% of horses are currently vaccinated with outdated strains of the virus, while the remainder are not vaccinated at all.

Two outbreaks of flu have been confirmed in West Sussex and Cornwall. However, the Animal Health Trust (AHT) is advising horse owners “not to panic”.

“We have recently seen a small flurry of outbreaks in unvaccinated animals, which does highlight the important of vaccinating your horse or pony against equine flu, and ensuring that you keep vaccinations up-to-date,” said Dr Debra Elton from the AHT.

“Your horse or pony would be at highest risk when being moved from yard to yard, if a new horse or pony is moved to your yard, or when mixing at events. To keep up-to-date with where the latest flu outbreaks are happening you can follow @equiflunet on twitter or visit www.equiflunet.org.uk”

Vet Karen Coumbe added: “I agree there is absolutely no need to panic; however, this highlights the need for vigilance for horse owners in the area,” said. “We advise you to watch out for any signs of respiratory disease in your horses and if worried call your vet.

“If you are concerned that your horse might be infected, your vet can check your horse and take swabs to test for the disease. These swabs are tested free of charge by the AHT.”

Equine flu is highly contagious, both via coughing horses — and the discharge produced — and also via buckets, clothing and handlers. Signs include a raised temperature, depression, conjunctivitis, nasal discharge, coughing and swollen lymph glands.

This news story was originally published in Horse & Hound magazine on Thursday 9 October, 2014