Shock as major show does not insist on flu jabs – as 41 cases confirmed in a month

Concerns have been raised over the fact a major county show is not insisting horses entered in its competitions are vaccinated against equine flu.

As 41 outbreaks have already been confirmed in June, the highest number of any month this year, organisers of the Royal Welsh Show (22 to 25 July) are “strongly advising” owners of all equines other than foals aged under six months to have entries “properly vaccinated” against flu.

It asks entrants to “please ensure your horses are fit and well prior to departure for the showground”, and reminds them that they travel to the show at their own risk, “with consideration to be given to the potential disease risks”.

One man who had entered his mare and foal for the show withdrew on learning there could be unvaccinated equines present.

“It’s a massive shock,” he told H&H.

“They’re taking all this money for entries but there could be unvaccinated horses there, putting the rest of them at risk.

“Flu is still a big issue, with outbreaks all round the country so I’m shocked they’re doing this. I’ve got a mare and foal, and some older horses at home; it’s just not worth putting them at risk.”

The outbreaks confirmed so far in June have been spread across the country. Although none have been diagnosed in Powys, where the show is held, horses have tested positive in the surrounding areas.

The Animal Health Trust told H&H this week that the outbreak is “gathering pace”, and that the recent resurgence in activity is “undoubtedly related to the increased movement and mixing of horses and ponies attending events at this time of year”.

In its latest advice, the British Equestrian Federation said: “It is vital that unvaccinated horses do not mix with other equines due to the increased risk of such an infectious disease spreading.”

In a letter to exhibitors, the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society said it “strongly advises and encourages all horses to be vaccinated against equine influenza”.

The letter added: “If competitors have any concerns about the health of their horses (fever, cough, lethargy etc) they should not travel to the show.

“Horses from yards/premises where equine flu has been suspected/confirmed should not travel to the show.”

It said competitors should not share feed or water buckets, or tack, should “try to avoid” allowing their horses to graze at the show and should make “all attempts to limit contact with other horses”.

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There will be “regular clearing” of muck heaps, which competitors will be asked to use, during the show, and staff will disinfect stables “as best as possible” between users, but it is the competitors’ responsibility to ensure stables have been disinfected before they use them.

Organisers state that horses should be isolated after their return home from the show, adding: “competitors to discuss this with their own vet.”

“The society will not hold itself responsible for any problem that may develop subsequent to bringing an unvaccinated equine to the show,” the letter states.

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