You need to act now, warns BEF as equine flu found in vaccinated horses

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Following British Horseracing’s decision to cancel all racing today, the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) is advising all horse owners to be vigilant. 

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

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

Actions for owners to take:                                                                                                            

  • 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 six months since the last vaccination, discuss a booster with your veterinary surgeon.

Racing meetings cancelled

Today four British meetings – Huntingdon, Doncaster, Ffos Las and Chelmsford were cancelled after three vaccinated horses in an active yard tested positive for equine flu. Horses from the infected yard raced on Wednesday, potentially exposing a significant number of horses.

The British Horseracing Association commented: "The fact that the cases have been identified in vaccinated horses presents a cause for significant concern over welfare and the potential spread of the disease and the action to cancel racing has been viewed as necessary in order to restrict, as far as possible, the risk of further spread of the disease." 

"We are working to identify which yards could have potentially been exposed and what further actions are required. 

"We will be communicating with yards potentially exposed to ensure appropriate quarantine and biosecurity measures are put in place and horse movements restricted to avoid possible further spread of the disease.

"The full extent of potential exposure is unknown and we are working quickly to understand as much as we can to assist our decision making.”

Since the start of 2019, there have been seven outbreaks of equine flu – in Essex, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire and Suffolk.

The two cases in Suffolk involved thoroughbreds – one centred on eight vaccinated two-year-old horses and the other was six unvaccinated animals.

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

Find out more about equine influenza, and what signs to look out for in your horse, here.


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