This week has seen some alarming news for horse owners in the UK. The incidence of cases of equine flu has soared over the last 12 months and this is not surprising given that a staggering sixty per cent of the UK’s 900,000 horses are not vaccinated against the disease.
Equine flu is endemic in the UK and small outbreaks do occur each year although these are generally localised. However, evidence would suggest that this year the outbreaks are linked with the movement of horses travelling to competitions in the UK from Ireland.
Horse transport companies are also being blamed for the spread of the disease as not all of them check horses’ passports for vaccination records before transporting them. The flu virus is spread through the air in mucus or water droplets so horses travelling in close proximity to each other in horseboxes are prime candidates for spreading infection.
Most disciplines in the UK insist that vaccination certificates or passports are presented before a horse is admitted to a competition venue but not all events check this documentation meaning that some un-vaccinated horses could slip through the net.
Many owners choose not to vaccinate their horses to try to save money, although this is false economy as the cost of treating the disease should their horse succumb far outweighs the cost of inoculation. Other owners are worried about possible side effects and if their horses do not compete or travel, they see no reason to vaccinate them.
Many livery yards operate a policy that un-vaccinated horses arriving on the yard are kept in isolation until their course of inoculations has been completed. However, equine flu is not a notifiable disease in the UK so quarantine is not a legal requirement.
The news should come as a warning to horse owners to get their horses vaccinated and to keep those vaccinations up to date. A brand new vaccine is available this year which is proven to be effective against a new strain of the virus which was found recently in affected horses.
Equine flu is an unpleasant and debilitating disease which can prove fatal in very young or elderly horses. Be a responsible owner and have your horse vaccinated for your own peace of mind and that of others on your yard.
Image credit: ABC.net
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