Call for show organisers to make flu vaccinations ‘mandatory’ as outbreaks top 200

The number of equine flu outbreaks in the UK this year has now topped 200.

The Animal Health Trust (AHT) has warned this is likely to continue to rise as the summer competition season continues in full swing.

As of yesterday (15 July), there had been 202 laboratory confirmed cases in 2019 compared to just three last year.

“Alarmingly the number of outbreaks of equine influenza continues to rise and are likely to continue week-on-week for the foreseeable future,” said Dr Richard Newton, director of epidemiology and disease surveillance at the AHT.

“The effect of increased horse movement and mixing of horses at events in the summer is a contributing factor”.

So far all of the positive samples that have been isolated and characterised at the AHT belong to Florida clade 1.

The latest outbreaks are across the UK and all confirmed cases since 5 July have involved either unvaccinated horses or horses with an unknown or unconfirmed vaccination history.

But the virus has also affected some vaccinated horses and the AHT is continuing to urge all owners are urged to “remain vigilant” for signs of flu, practise good biosecurity and ensure their horses’ vaccinations are up to date.

Those horses who received flu jabs or boosters when the outbreaks first took hold in February will be due a six-month booster next month (August).

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“The advice to all horse owners from the AHT remains the same,” said a statement from the trust.

“Remain vigilant to the clinical signs of flu, boost the horse’s vaccination if it was given more than six months ago and importantly isolate new arrivals on the yard and those returning from shows.

“It is important that horse-owners also practise good biosecurity at the yard and when out competing.”

Dr Newton added: “We applaud those horse shows and events which have made vaccination mandatory, have arrangements to check passports and enforce the rules.

“We encourage organisers of horse shows and events in the future to make vaccination mandatory, and to ensure this decision is communicated in plenty of time ahead of their event to allow owners the time to properly vaccinate their animals.”

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