African horse sickness – are horses in the UK at risk? *H&H Plus*

As midges spread a deadly equine virus through Thailand, Professor Debra Archer MRCVS discusses the risk of a UK outbreak

The strange, sudden death of a racehorse in Thailand in February was the first sign of an unfolding crisis about to hit the country’s horse industry.

Within weeks, multiple cases of sudden equine death and of horses showing abnormal clinical signs were being reported by vets – prompting a full-scale investigation by the Thai animal health authorities. After laboratory testing of blood samples, African horse sickness (AHS) virus was confirmed.

This notifiable disease must be reported to the global authorities, so control measures were immediately put into place. While AHS is common in Africa, it rarely occurs elsewhere. When it does, it has the potential to cause a deadly outbreak – such as that seen in the late 1980s in Spain, Portugal and Morocco. This outbreak is the first in this part of Asia.