A vet from one of the UK’s largest dedicated equine practices is hopeful the outbreak of equine flu can be effectively controlled over the coming days.
With the British Horseracing Authority calling off all meetings on Thursday, Oliver Pynn from Rossdales believes there are plenty of practical steps that can be taken to limit the spread of the illness.
Racehorses are routinely vaccinated against equine flu and Pynn says the first line of defence is a booster injection.
He said: “The flu virus changes all the time and this is a strain we haven’t seen for a while. The vaccine will offer some protection so what we are advising our clients to do, in accordance with BHA advice, would be that everything has a six-monthly booster for influenza.
“We take sensible bio-security measures, we take temperatures, we’re looking out for clinical signs, we try to keep groups of horses together and not mix up different groups and we’re being sensible about moving horses.
“It is spread through an aerosol, like coughing horses, the same as human flu, so you need to make sure everyone is taking sensible precautions, which you should do around horses anyway.
“The whole horse population is obviously affected, but while we need to be aware of it and take sensible precautions, hopefully it can be kept under control.
“There have been several other cases in recent weeks away from racing, but hopefully people vaccinate sensibly, take good bio-security measures and investigate the cases until we get an idea of how far and wide this has spread.
“There’s a lot of testing going on at the moment and then we can get a feel of where the virus is and how we can manage it.
“In a vaccinated population, the symptoms that show aren’t too severe, but in young stock not vaccinated – particularly new-born foals, of which there are plenty at the moment – it can be quite serious.”
Professor Christopher Proudman, head of the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Surrey, believes the decision to call a temporary halt to racing should minimise the impact of the illness.
He said: “It is a tribute to the effectiveness of disease surveillance that the current outbreak has been detected so early, to date only three cases have been detected in racehorses.
“The early, decisive action taken by the British Horseracing Authority will minimise the risk of transmission of the virus between racehorses, thereby minimising the impact of this serious threat to horse welfare.”