Latest equine flu update: more cases confirmed

Owners are being encouraged to discuss flu vaccination boosters with their vet as more cases are confirmed.

The Animal Health Trust (AHT) shared details of seven more positive tests across four counties yesterday (13 February). None of the affected horses had been vaccinated.

These included three non-thoroughbreds in Sussex; a non-thoroughbred in Worcestershire, who has been in contact with eight other unvaccinated horses; plus two non-thoroughbreds in Leicestershire who had recently arrived from Scotland and have been isolated.

A thoroughbred in Sussex, not on a racing yard, who had recently been imported from Ireland and developed a cough after arrival has also tested positive for the virus.

Cecil’s Horse Sanctuary in Hertfordshire also confirmed this morning (14 February) that it is on lockdown as it has confirmed cases of flu.

The British Equestrian Federation’s update today repeated its call for owners to be vigilant for signs of flu and to contact their vet with any concerns.

“As has been demonstrated in this outbreak, vaccinations are vital in tackling the spread of the disease so all owners must ensure their vaccination records are up to date,” said a BEF spokesman.

“If it has been longer than six months since the last vaccination, we strongly recommend discussing a booster with their veterinary surgeon.

“The BEF notes that some venues are insisting – as they are perfectly entitled to – that all horses must have received a booster within the last six months. This is a decision based on a local veterinary risk assessment so we would remind participants to check the requirements of venues before they set off.”

The spokesman also reminded owners to isolate any recently imported horses for at least 21 days.

A number of fixtures have been postponed, including British Eventing’s (BE) Jump Training Championships at Hartpury, which has been moved from 17 February to 19 April. This is because Hartpury requires a clear six days between vaccination and horses arriving at the venue.

“After consultation with various parties, it was noted that many owners will have taken the advised precaution and vaccinated their horses in the past few days following the outbreak of equine flu, and would therefore not be permitted on to the venue by Hartpury College,” said a statement from BE.

“Postponing the championships will now give as many competitors as possible the opportunity to compete at a later date.”

British Breeding’s stallion event at Addington has also been postponed from 16 February to 16 March.

Praise for the Animal Health Trust

Racing resumed in Britain yesterday (13 February) after a six-day absence.

Nick Rust, chief executive of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), thanked the AHT for its “round-the-clock efforts” to help the sport get back to normal.

Mr Rust also thanked all those involved, including owners, trainers, vets, stable staff, the Horserace Betting Levy Board for its financial contributions, MPs Laurence Robertson and Conor McGinn of the all-party parliamentary racing group and members of the veterinary committee that advised the BHA.

The trust dealt with more than a normal year’s worth of tests in a matter of days.

“Racing owes a tremendous vote of thanks to Dr Richard Newton [head of epidemiology and disease surveillance at the AHT], his team and all the vets who made some tough decisions which they knew would have difficult consequences for many in the sport,” said Mr Rust.

“It is very reassuring to have the solid support of world-leading scientists and veterinarians, and by their actions they have helped us reduce the risk of a prolonged outbreak which would have caused greater damage to the sport and further compromised the health of our horses.

“We are fortunate that our preparation for events such as this is aided by the sport’s long-term commitment to veterinary science and education, in which the Horserace Betting Levy Board plays a pivotal role.”

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He added all 190 declarations for today’s racing have been cleared to run, and the BHA is working as fast as it can to give the all-clear to horses and yards still awaiting results.

“As Clive Hamblin, the NTF veterinary advisor, said last night — we’re not out of the woods yet. With the influenza virus still affecting unvaccinated horses outside the British thoroughbred herd, continuing vigilance is vital,” Mr Rust said.

“We are likely to see more positive tests in Britain before the outbreak dies down but we now have the understanding we need to manage the risk to racing.”

He added: “The sport has received significant media attention over the last seven days and the message to the world has been clear from start to finish – this is an industry that puts the health and welfare of its horses first.”

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