2019 has seen the biggest outbreak of equine influenza for a long time and cases continue to rise, more so during the summer due to the mixing of horses at competitions and organised events. Cases of strangles are also on the rise as the latest figures from the Animal Health Trust (AHT) show.
The biggest thing horse owners can do to protect their horse from equine influenza is ensure vaccinations are up to date. Experts continue to recommend booster vaccinations every 6 months due to the ongoing outbreak and many shows and events are now insisting on the same.
Many new outbreaks are occurring following an unvaccinated horse arriving on the yard and infecting other horses. Yard owners need to really clamp down on their isolation procedures and I would recommend new horses must have received their first two injections prior to moving to the yard.
A good isolation process for new arrivals will dramatically reduce the risk of new arrivals infecting other horses with either influenza or strangles. My suggestion is the following:
- New arrivals are only permitted on the yard if they have had both first and second influenza vaccines of the primary course, or that their booster vaccination is up to date.
- All new arrivals are isolated for at least 2 weeks (preferably 3). This means they don't share any facilities and are kept apart from the existing horses.
- Consider screening new arrivals with a strangles blood test either immediately before they arrive or during the isolation period.
- Be particularly cautious with horses from dealer yards or from Ireland.
Ensure you follow biosecurity precautions when taking your horse out and about:
- Don't share water buckets, haynets, grooming equipment or anything else with other horses
- Don't let your horse touch other horses
- Avoid people stroking or touching your horse (they will spread infections via acting as a fomite)
- Ideally try to avoid sharing the same close air space as other horses for example in collecting rings when standing around
- Never mix with unvaccinated horses
Finally, be vigilant for signs of respiratory disease and if you keep your horse on a yard make sure all the other owners agree to do the same. Any horse with a cough, nasal discharge or temperature should be isolated and checked by a vet as soon as possible.
As always if you have any questions or concerns please get in touch.