Over the last two months there have been several outbreaks of equine influenza reported in the UK, Ireland, France, Belgium and Germany. Cases have occurred in both vaccinated and unvaccinated horses, although the disease in vaccinated horses has been mild.
In the UK, cases have been confirmed in Essex, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, Suffolk and Yorkshire. In one of these outbreaks, vaccinated horses have been affected, but the other outbreaks have occurred in unvaccinated animals.
Equine Influenza is a highly contagious viral infection that is spread by coughing and sneezing.
Clinical signs of Equine Influenza include:
- Fever (up to 106 °F [41 °C])
- Nasal discharge
- Have a dry, hacking cough
- Loss of appetite
If your horse is showing any symptoms of respiratory disease, please contact your vet. There is no known human health risk associated with the virus.
Although vaccination does not always completely prevent infection of an individual horse, it usually results in a much milder disease and reduces the risk of the horse spreading the disease to others. It is important, therefore that as many horses as possible are kept up-to-date with their Equine Influenza vaccinations.
To protect your own horses and to minimise the risk of an epidemic of Equine Influenza, we recommend that all unvaccinated or lapsed horses are vaccinated as soon as possible. In addition, horses that have not been vaccinated within the last 6 months should receive a booster vaccination.
If your horses are going to shows or events, you should monitor them closely on arrival back to yard (e.g. monitor rectal temperatures). Please ask your vet for advice.
The Animal Health Trust gives some helpful information about what to do with flu. The Animal Health Trust are collating all information about the outbreaks, click here for further details on their website and also a helpful information sheet.
If you have any concerns or questions, please contact your local Horse Health Programme practice.