BEF monitors outbreak of equine influenza

Following British Horseracing’s decision to cancel all racing yesterday following the outbreak of equine ‘flu,the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) is closely monitoring the situation.

Veterinary experts have advised that it is not necessary to cancel other equine events at this time, but will issue a further update once the full extent of the outbreak is known.

In the meantime, it is recommend that all horse owners follow the guidelines below as a precaution and ensure that all vaccinations are fully up to date. If your horse is currently vaccinated, we recommend a booster if it has been longer than six months since your horse’s last vaccination.

Horse receiving an equine flu vaccine
Photo courtesy of John Simpson

Mandatory vaccination of racehorses was introduced by the Jockey Club in 1981 following an outbreak in 1979 which caused widespread disruption. A further outbreak occurred in 1989 in which vaccinated horses were not protected. The most major recent outbreak was in 2003 when more than 1,000 horses were affected in 21 yards in Newmarket. However, racing continued during that outbreak.

It is crucial for all horse and pony owners to be vigilant and follow recommended guidelines on how to detect and prevent the spread of this infectious disease.

Look out for signs of disease which can include high temperature, cough, snotty nose, enlarged glands (under the lower jaw), swollen or sore eyes, depression, loss of appetite and swelling in the lower legs.

If you see any of these signs, isolate the horse and call your vet immediately.

It is essential that any horses showing signs of possible equine flu, or horses that might have been in contact with possibly infected horses, do not travel to competitions or other events where there will be groups of horses. If your horse has been in contact with an infected horse we suggest that you should take immediate veterinary advice.

We advise that horses are vaccinated with a booster for equine flu with a vaccine that contains the Florida Clade 1. There are two such vaccines currently licensed in the UK, ProteqFlu and Equilis Prequenza. If your horse is currently vaccinated, but it has been longer than 6 months since the last vaccination, we recommend that you discuss a booster with your veterinary surgeon.

The BEF also has guidance on its website regarding equine infectious diseases and is urging owners to take the necessary precautions to avoid their horses becoming infected.

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