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Strangles initiative to run online as pandemic highlights biosecurity *H&H Plus*


  • As the current coronavirus situation has brought the importance of biosecurity into sharp focus, it is hoped this will serve to improve practice in the equine industry

    A new strangles initiative aiming to eradicate stigma surrounding the disease will go ahead online – as the pandemic reinforces the importance of biosecurity.

    Strangles Awareness Week (4–10 May) is a collaboration between Redwings, the Animal Health Trust (AHT), the British Horse Society (BHS), Keeping Britain’s Horses Healthy, Scotland’s Rural College, the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, World Horse Welfare and backed by the British Equine Veterinary Association.

    Events will run on social media, where people are encouraged to share strangles experiences, key messages and myth-busting facts and take the Redwings Stamp Out Strangles! pledge, agreeing to champion good biosecurity and speak out about the disease. There will also be a live conversation between AHT head of bacteriology research Andrew Waller and Redwings’ senior vet and head of welfare Nic de Brauwere.

    Redwings’ education campaigns manager Andie Vilela said it was always the vision that the week would be a predominantly online event.

    “While we are in the grip of a pandemic and the public are being educated on the importance of social distancing and hand-washing, among other biosecurity measures, this presents an opportunity to reinforce how vital it is to apply these behaviours when caring for horses,” she said.

    Ms Vilela added when Redwings surveyed owners in 2016, it was found that one of the biggest perceived barriers to strangles prevention was stigma.

    “Now, thanks to social media, we are starting to see more owners and yards be open about their experiences, helping to show strangles poses a risk to any horse – and the equine community is responding positively,” she said.

    “But this doesn’t mean the problem has gone away and we’re still hearing from owners who were too fearful to ask for advice in case they suffered a backlash.

    “If everyone was more supportive and accepting of infectious disease prevention as a part of horse management, more would have the confidence to speak out, share concerns and impart knowledge that could prevent another having to deal with the devastating impact.”

    BHS welfare education manager Emmeline Hannelly said the society hopes the campaign will help alleviate unnecessary stigma surrounding strangles.

    “The week presents a brilliant opportunity for an open and honest dialogue on strangles, the vital importance of understanding the signs and the need to contain an outbreak,” she said. “Due to its highly contagious nature, it is crucial we help to raise awareness of the disease and how we can all work together.”

    Angie Driver, a Kent owner whose three equines contracted strangles, told H&H she supports the Redwings campaign and hopes others will speak about the disease.

    “People messaged me saying I was brave to speak out, which indicates how much stigma is still out there,” she said.

    “People would speak out more if there wasn’t that stigma.”

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