Scientists have discovered that Mongolia may be a hotbed for novel strains of the equine influenza virus (EIV). There are 3.3 million horses in Mongolia that are critical to the livelihood of Mongolian herders; horses provide transportation and food, and play a huge role in the culture of the Mongolian people.
With more horses than people, Mongolia has had five major outbreaks of equine flu since 1970. Researchers wanted to estimate the prevalence of EIV in horses in between these major outbreaks to help determine whey the outbreaks were occurring. Nasal swabs were taken from 680 horses between 2016 and 2017, and just seven of these tested positive for the influenza A Virus; two more were suspected of having the virus, the researchers reported in Pathogens. However, none of the specimens yielded positive for influenza A under further testing.
Of the 131 herder households surveyed by researchers, none had vaccinated their horses against EIV. It was determined that Mongolia is a hotspot for EIA emergence because of three things:
- EIV vaccination is not common
- wild and domestic equid herds mix
- periodic flu is prevalent
Mongolia has seen three outbreaks with high mortality rates between 1970 and the 1990, with an estimated 20 to 30 percent death rate for all three outbreaks. The most recent outbreak was in 2011-2012, and it occurred in all 21 of the country's provinces.
Interestingly, in a study done by the researchers, over 85 percent of horse owners know about EIV, but only 22 percent know there is a vaccine for the disease. Only 6 percent of households have ever vaccinated their horses against the virus. However, more than 95 percent of households said that they would vaccinate their horse with the EIV vaccine if it was free.
Researchers noted that there is a disconnect between the desire to vaccinate and the current practice in EIV care for horses. It was also noted that there was a serious concern of transmission of EIV strains from horses to people. Historically, there have been human flu outbreaks that came on the heels of equine flu outbreaks, including those in 1727, 1750, 1760 and 1872.
The study showed that EIV was endemic to Mongolia in between large-scale outbreaks. How best to encourage vaccination and protection of both horses and humans still needs to be determined.
Read more at HorseTalk.
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