Threat of exotic disease still a major issue

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    While diseases such as strangles and ringworm continue to niggle, and equine flu is always a concern, the biggest worry is that of emerging exotic diseases.

    Equine viral arteritis (EVA) has been detected in two stallions in the UK this year.

    EVA-positive stallions and their infected semen are the most common ways this infection spreads over long distances and across borders.

    It has now been proved that semen for artificial insemination (AI) can also carry the virus.

    This has reinforced the view that vets should not inseminate any mare unless the semen arrives accompanied by an original health certificate or documentation confirming that the stallion has been fully tested.

    Equine infectious anaemia (EIA), also known as swamp fever, has recently appeared in imported horses, while other diseases, such as West Nile Virus and African Horse Sickness, also pose a threat.

    It is hard to quantify risk and even expert opinion varies, but everyone agrees that strict import and export controls are vital if the threat of disease is to be minimised, especially with the increase in global trade.

    Some infections are more visible than others; sometimes a horse can carry a disease and not display obvious clinical signs.

    Quarantine is therefore a sensible precaution for any new arrivals on a yard.

    Vets have a role to play and by encouraging horse owners to be more proactive and aware of potential infection, we will help minimise the risks as much as possible.

    To find out more about the veterinary advances made in 2010, including diagnostics, research and dope testing, see the current issue of Horse & Hound, 23 December

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