UK Equine Influenza Update 2019
Further Update - 8th February 2019 (In addition to our original update below)
Horse racing in the UK has now been cancelled until at least Wednesday 13th February due to outbreaks of Equine Influenza in vaccinated two-year-old thoroughbred horses in Suffolk. These are the first confirmed cases of Equine Influenza in vaccinated horses in the UK, following several outbreaks in vaccinated horses in Europe earlier this year.
We are strongly recommending that owners with unvaccinated horses should commence a primary course of flu vaccine as soon as possible. We are currently offering the second vaccination in the course free of charge - DETAILS HERE.
We are now updating our advice for all "horses at risk". If you feel that your horse is at risk of coming into contact with EI (for example, you are travelling frequently to competitions, travelling to Europe with your horse or come into contact with new horses regularly) we are now recommending that you follow the BHA advice by giving your horse a vaccination booster if it hasn't had one in the past 6 months. Other horses at risk include old or immunocompromised animals, for example those with poorly controlled equine Cushings disease. Please call the office if you would like to book a vaccination in - 01376 513369. These can be carried out on one of our half price visit fee 'zone days' to reduce the cost (terms apply).
An update on UK Equine Influenza - February 2019
Some of you may have heard that there have already been several cases of Equine Influenza (EI) in the UK this year, plus recent outbreaks in France, Germany, Belgium and Ireland. More UK cases were diagnosed this week (4th February 2019).
We would like to give an update on the current situation to reassure owners and provide sensible advice without causing alarm.
There were only two confirmed incidents of EI in the UK during the whole of 2018. The first was 12 months ago. It involved horses recently imported from mainland Europe and was caused by Florida Clade 1 (FC1) virus infection. It was the first time this virus had been seen in the UK since 2009 - most EI cases in recent years have involved Clade 2 (FC2) virus.
The diagnosis of EI in itself is not unusual. Sporadic cases occur in non-vaccinated horses on a semi-regular basis. However, since December 2018 a slightly unusual situation has arisen ...
There have been quite a few outbreaks in Europe since December 2018. These include 2 outbreaks in Belgium, 10 outbreaks affecting almost 40 individual horses in France, 3 outbreaks in Germany and 2 outbreaks in Ireland.
What has been unusual about the European cases has been the number of vaccinated horses affected. Both of the Irish and Belgian outbreaks were in vaccinated horses, while 6 of the French outbreaks and 1 of the German outbreaks were in vaccinated horses.
All of the European outbreaks involved the FC1 virus not seen in recent years. In France, research has shown that the virus involved is a new variant that has diverged from previous strains. Research is ongoing, but this may explain why so many cases are being seen in vaccinated horses.
During January 2019, 4 UK incidents of EI were confirmed in 4 separate counties (Essex, Cheshire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire). All of these cases were in non-vaccinated animals. All involved FC1 viruses (although typing on the Lincolnshire isolate is awaited).
Three new cases were announced on 4th February 2019: 2 in Suffolk and 1 in Yorkshire. The vaccination status and virus type is to be confirmed.
In the 7 incidents diagnosed so far this year the symptoms were as follows:
- Case 1 (Essex) - Coughing and purulent nasal discharge. No reported in-contact horses.
- Case 2 (Cheshire) - Coughing, increased respiratory effort, mucus nasal discharge, fever. 10 in-contact horses reported but no other symptoms / cases reported.
- Case 3 (Derbyshire) - Harsh cough, nasal discharge and fever. 14 in-contact horses, 12 of which were vaccinated. No other symptoms / cases reported.
- Case 4 (Lincolnshire) - Coughing and nasal discharge. 7 unvaccinated in-contact horses, 4 of which developed similar clinical signs
- Case 5 (Yorkshire) - Fever, nasal discharge and coughing. 1 recently imported unvaccinated horse with no in contacts.
- Case 6 (Suffolk) - Coughing, nasal discharge and fever. 8 VACCINATED thoroughbred two-year-old horses.
- Case 7 (Suffolk) - Symptoms as above. 6 unvaccinatined non-thoroughbred horses.
What has the veterinary profession done?
The Animal Health Trust (AHT) is providing continuing advice and monitoring. As recently as December 2018 the AHT were advising that "We have not seen a large scale influenza outbreak in the UK since 2003. But when such outbreaks do occur, they can be catastrophic. Let's be proactive and know where the virus is in the UK and what versions of the virus are circulating within our horse population."
The AHT provide us (vets) with a huge resource of information, advice and sampling kits to diagnose EI when it occurs. At Paton and Lee we have circulated their most recent advice among all vets and staff so that they are aware of the current situation and are staying vigilant.
On 18th January 2019, the British Horseracing Authority issued an initial Equine Influenza Alert to increase awareness among the veterinary profession and horse owners.
On 25th January 2019, the BHA issued a second Equine Influenza Alert. In this alert they stated: "Due to the concerning situation in Europe where outbreaks have occurred in vaccinated horses, the BHA would like to advise that all horses which have not had a vaccination again Equine Influenza within the last six months should receive a booster vaccination."
On 1st February 2019, Paton and Lee started to offer a discount on primary vaccination courses for unvaccinated or overdue horses to encourage vaccine uptake. This offer is ongoing. Terms apply and you can contact the office or visit our website for all details.
On 4th February 2019, further cases were diagnosed and further alerts given.
On 7th February 2019 all horse racing was cancelled by the BHA in response to the outbreak of EI in vaccinated horses.
We do not want to cause any alarm among horse owners. We are monitoring the situation and will remain vigilant to symptoms and test for EI where necessary.
If your horse is already vaccinated against Equine Influenza and has had the normal booster within the past 12 months you do not need to do anything.
If you feel that your horse is at high risk of coming into contact with EI (for example, you are travelling frequently to competitions, travelling to Europe with your horse or come into contact with new horses regularly) we are no advising that you follow the BHA advice by giving your horse a vaccination booster if it hasn't had one for more than 6 months.
Remain vigilant with biosecurity. New horses entering a yard should be isolated for a period of 14 days. Horses showing signs that could be flu (especially rapidly spreading nasal discharge and/or harsh dry cough) should be isolated and promptly investigated by your vet. Symptoms may only be transient in vaccinated horses.
Unlike other infectious diseases, Equine Influenza can be airborne over reasonable distances as well as be transmitted indirectly, including via people.
If you are concerned about the information in this post, or if your horse has any of the symptoms described, please contact us and talk to one of our vets. 01376 513369
You may find the following links useful: