Equine influenza has been at the forefront of many horse owner's minds as it cancelled Thoroughbred racing in England earlier in February. One of the main causes for concern over this flu outbreak was that horses that had been previously vaccinated for the virus were still becoming sick.
A highly contagious disease, equine flu is spread through aerosolized droplets between horses as well as through items that come into contact with infected horses, like buckets and grooming tools. Horses that have the flu cough, run a fever and have nasal discharge.
In England, racing was cancelled for six days, resulting in millions of dollars of lost revenue. In 2001, an outbreak of Foot-and-Mouth disease cancelled the Cheltenham Festival and 121 other race meets. The disease also affected cows, sheep and pigs, with a financial toll of $6 billion to the British economy. Additional recent disease outbreaks have involved Equine Herpesvirus Type 1 and Equine Infections Anemia (EIA).
Many equine infectious disease outbreaks are preventable and can be contained when they occur. Horses should be properly vaccinated and the dates recorded. Horse and barn owners should have biosecurity plans in place and additional screening for emerging infectious diseases should be put in place; this may include using testing procedures that are not veterinary-lab based. Once the disease has been characterized, a Polymerase Chain Reaction test can be produced that will allow additional testing more quickly.
The creation of a response team that can assist both horse owners and authorities is a possibility, which would help identify and manage disease outbreaks.
Read more at Equine Info Exchange.
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