Equine Flu Outbreak

Equine Influenza

 

Latest Updates

15th March - A single case of equine flu has been reported in a horse in Cumbria. It was an unvaccinated, non-thoroughbred horse which had recently been purchased and moved to the area. The other horse on the yard has not shown any signs of flu. There have been multiple small outbreaks across the UK in the first half of the month, almost all in non-vaccinated horses. This is showing that vaccination is a good control measure of equine flu. Our advice has not changed from these outbreaks and we are emphasising vigilance and vaccination as the best control method at this time.

15th February - Over the week there has been a shift in the focus on flu. On the racing side, after several thousand horses have been tested, no significant spread has been seen. This Includes 100 that we have tested over the weekend. Racing has therefore now resumed. All horses going to races must have had a booster within 6 months, and must be accompanied by a declaration of good health. On the non racing side we have seen more spread. Almost all of the outbreaks this week have been in unvaccinated non-thoroughbreds. This emphasises the need for vaccination in pleasure and competition horses. If your horse is unvaccinated we recommend that vaccinations should be started as soon as possible. This is because horses will only start to gain significant protection one week after the second vaccination of the primary course.

9th February - There has been further outbreaks detected in the South East of England. Widespread testing is being performed this weekend on racehorses to check for potential spread, and we will hopefully know the results in a few days. Unfortunately there has been one fatality in an unvaccinated horse in Suffolk, this emphasises the importance of ensure all horses are vaccinated.

7th February - Today there have been further outbreaks in Cheshire and Leicestershire. This is ontop of multiple outbreaks in both vaccinated and unvaccinated horses across the UK during January and February. The closest outbreak to Cumbria has been Yorkshire.  As of today the British Horse Assosiation (BHA) have suspended horse racing nationally, pending laboratory testing.  The BEF are also closely monitoring proceedings.  The BHA and BEF have advised 6 monthly vaccine boosters to maintain immunity.

 

What is Equine Influenza?

Equine influenza is a viral disease, which is extremely contagious, affecting both horses and donkeys.  Unvaccinated horses are usually very unwell for a period of 7-10 days.  Infection can lead onto severe complications including pneumonia. Vaccinated horses can still catch the disease, however these animals usually suffer from a milder form of the virus and for a shorter duration.

 

Clinical Signs

It is important to monitor your horses by checking their temperatures for any increase. The normal temperature of a horse is 37.2-38.3°C (99-101°F), and any temperature over 39.0°C is suspicious of a fever.  Additionally if your horse shows symptoms including a cough, snotty nose, enlarged glands (under the lower jaw), swollen or sore eyes, depression, loss of appetite or swelling in the lower legs please contact us immediately and we can arrange free testing for flu throughout the Animal Health Trust.

 

How do I protect my horse?

There are two ways to protect your horse with vaccination and biosecurity. Biosecurity is protecting your horses from animals with unknown health status, including isolating any new horses on the yard for 14 days and checking their temperature daily. If horses on a yard are mixing with other yards, such as competition horses, it is prudent to take horses temperatures on a daily basis. 

 

Vaccination

Vaccination provides a certain level of protection from flu, reducing the severity of the disease and the amount the virus is shed after infection. This reduces the risk to your horse, slows down the spread of the disease and helps us control the outbreak. We recommend that ALL horses on a yard are vaccinated for flu. 

This includes horses which do not leave the yard and especially 'pet' shetlands or the retired and older.  In some outbreaks these animals have been the worst affected.  Further to this the BHA and BEF recommend that all competition horses, and horses in-contact with competition horses, have 6 monthly flu boosters during this outbreak as the protection the vaccine gives is at its strongest for the 6 months after vaccination. The vaccination used at Paragon, Equilis Prequenza, contains the Florida Clade 1 strain recommended by the BEF for this outbreak.

If your horse is unvaccinated they will only start to gain protection from vaccination, 1 week after their second dose. This means it will take one month to get any significant protection from the vaccination. (Day 0 - First Flu Vaccine, Day 21-92 - Second Vaccination, then 7 days later horse begins to get significant protection)

 

Vaccine Amnesty

As a result of the flu outbreak we have brought forward our vaccine amnesty for unvaccinated horses. All unvaccinated/lapsed horses receiving their first flu vaccine before the 15th March will receive their second free of charge. Please contact our Equine Team to make your appointment or if you have any questions about protecting your horse or yardon 01768483789 or 01228 710208.