The situation is relating to the EHV-1 outbreak in Europe is improving but far from over. H&H speaks to authorities, riders and vets to find out the latest, and what is being done to protect UK horses
IMPROVEMENTS have been reported in Valencia, Spain, but the equine herpes virus (EHV-1) outbreak is “not yet fully under control” – as horses develop neurological signs at a second Spanish venue, and protocols are introduced for horses returning to the UK.
In the rapidly changing situation surrounding the outbreak, on 6 March the FEI athlete representative in Valencia reported that the medical condition of the horses there remains “stable”.
“While these were positive signs, the veterinary team stressed it is important to be aware that the disease was not yet fully under control,” said an FEI spokesman.
Criticisms have been made that authorities had not provided suitable stabling, more horses had died than had been reported and there were not enough vets on site.
The FEI reported on 3 March that its veterinary manager had organised a meeting in Valencia between the Spanish ministry, organisers, vets, the FEI athlete representative and the FEI team leader to help “resolve issues”, and agreement was reached on roles and treatment protocols. The FEI said some additional temporary stabling delivered was “not up to standard” and “unsuitable for larger horses” so replacements were organised.
On 4 March the FEI jumping director arrived in Valencia and held a meeting with organisers; a follow-up was organised to “ensure lines of communication remained open”. On 5 March the FEI athlete representative reported to the FEI veterinary directory that supplies were continuing to be delivered to the venue.
On 6 March the FEI confirmed support available for those in Valencia included extra grooms being made available and additional drivers being sought to help transport horses home. The FEI said stabling had arrived, a French team specialised in international quarantine stables had been providing recommendations on biosecurity, and the French team had provided an on site lab to help with monitoring.
On 8 March the FEI reported 10 horses had died since the outbreak began; two on site and three in hospital in Valencia, two in Barcelona and two in Germany. The spokesman said higher numbers had been stated on social media but nine was the “official” figure.
British rider Andrew Saethers, whose four horses in Valencia had had a fever, two of which also had neurological signs, told H&H it had been “a hard few weeks” but things seemed to be “levelling off”.
“I feel like I’m winning the battle of saving my horses, and I can’t wait to get home but I have no idea when that will be,” he said.
On 4 March a horse at the Sunshine Tour in Vejer de la Frontera developed neurological signs of EHV-1, but had reportedly tested negative to the disease. The horse had been in isolation two kilometres from the competition since 26 February.
Following a “full risk analysis” conducted by the Spanish ministry, on 4 March, the show organisers and the FEI, it was agreed the competition, originally scheduled to run until 28 March, could continue until 7 March. But on 5 March the FEI said there was “no choice” but to immediately shut down the competition after a second horse developed neurological signs.
On 7 March the FEI continued to follow up on the condition and veterinary care of the two horses and had requested an update from the primary veterinary delegate on the remaining horses at the venue.
To date, eight countries have confirmed EHV-1 cases; Spain, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, and Qatar. A case in the USA was not linked to the European outbreak. Under FEI regulations 752 horses that had been in Valencia since 1 February are blocked in the FEI database until they have fulfilled necessary testing requirements.
In Doha, where the Global Champions Tour was taking place (4–6 March), four horses had arrived from Valencia on 20 February – one of which tested positive for EHV-1, having been kept in isolation since its arrival. All four horses will remain in isolation until 15 March.
British Showjumping (BS) and British Eventing (BE) announced all horses returning from France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Italy, Austria, Poland, the Netherlands, Germany, and Slovakia from 1 March should be isolated from horses which may attend BS or BE competitions and training and attended to by separate staff. It is “strongly advised” horses returning are separated from all other horses. The same applies to horses who have transited through these countries on their return. British Equestrian told H&H each BEF member body has adopted these protocols.
All horses on the premises, including those who have not travelled to Europe, must have monitoring and twice-daily temperature recording. They will be excluded from participation in all BEF member body competitions and activities until they have been free of clinical signs for 28 days, or appropriate testing and samples have been approved by Rossdales Laboratory.
David Rendle, chair of the British Equine Veterinary Association’s (BEVA) health and medicines committee told H&H BEVA had been working with BEF to provide guidelines, and the organisation “cannot stress how important it is” guidelines are followed.
“If people follow the guidelines then EHV will be contained; if they do not, more horses may die, the choice is stark and simple,” he said.
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