The British Horseracing Authority (BHA), with the unanimous support of the BHA’s industry veterinary committee, has taken the decision to cancel racing at all British racecourses on Thursday 7 February 2019. This is following the BHA being informed early this evening by the Animal Health Trust of three confirmed Equine Influenza positives from vaccinated horses in an active racing yard.
Horses from the infected yard have raced today at Ayr and Ludlow, potentially exposing a significant number of horses from yards across the country and in Ireland. The fact that the cases have been identified in vaccinated horses presents a cause for significant concern over welfare. The potential spread of the disease and the action to cancel racing has been viewed as necessary in order to restrict, as far as possible, the risk of further spread of the disease.
The BHA has worked quickly to identify which yards could potentially have been exposed today and to identify the further actions required. The BHA is presently communicating with yards potentially exposed, to ensure appropriate quarantine and biosecurity measures are put in place and horse movements restricted to avoid potential further spread of the disease.
The full extent of potential exposure is unknown and we are working quickly to understand as much as we can to assist our decision making. The BHA is working closely with the Animal Health Trust and will issue a further update tomorrow. We recommend that any trainer who has concerns about the health status of any of their horses should contact their veterinarian.
About Equine Influenza
Equine influenza is a highly infectious disease of horses, mules and donkeys, occurring globally caused by strains of Influenza A virus. It is the most potentially damaging of the respiratory viruses that occur in UK equines. Disease symptoms in non–immune animals include high fever, coughing and nasal discharge.
The outbreak at the infected yard follows the identification of a number of equine influenza cases across Europe and the UK, including several in vaccinated horses. Following the recent outbreaks, guidance was sent to trainers to inform them that all horses which have not had a vaccination against Equine Influenza within the last six months should receive a booster vaccination, and that trainers should be extra vigilant with biosecurity.
However, equine influenza can be highly contagious and – unlike other infectious diseases – can be airborne over reasonable distances as well as transmitted indirectly, including via people. There are no known consequences for humans associated with exposure to the disease.
The Animal Health Trust is the equine monitoring agent for disease surveillance in the UK and information is posted on their website and twitter feeds.