Equine influenza update

What’s the latest on Equine Influenza?

The national press has gone very quiet on the subject of equine influenza since February. However, the epidemic is still ongoing across the UK. 30 cases were reported in May and 13 have been reported in June. This was from areas all across the country, from Surrey to Scotland. These occurred in a range of horses, almost all of which were unvaccinated.

This highlights the ongoing need for vaccinations. In particular, for horses attending events where they are mixing with unknown horses, for example –hunting meets, shows, events. Horses have been returning from these events with influenza and spreading it to unvaccinated horses near them.

Clinical signs of Equine Flu to watch out for

  • Nasal discharge
  • Depression
  • A loss of appetite
  • A dry, hacking cough
  • A fever up to 106 °F (41 °C)
  • Lethargy

If you notice these symptoms in your horse, we would recommend you contact your vet as soon as possible. It is also advised to keep your horse in quarantine until your vet has given the all clear/ diagnosed your horse. This will help prevent the Equine Influenza virus spreading to other horses on the yard.

The importance of the Equine Flu vaccination

From when the horse is infected with the Equine Flu virus, the lining of a horse’s respiratory tract can take between 50 to 100 days to completely recover. This means no arduous exercise or stressful situations should take place in this time. This is because it could make the horse susceptible to other respiratory infections.

Vaccination does not stop horses from catching the disease entirely. It does, however, make the signs much milder and reduces the amount that they can spread. Influenza virus from an unvaccinated horse can spread 5km through the air. This means any horse within a 5km radius is at risk from a single unvaccinated horse.

In light of this, the recommendation remains that any horse which has not been vaccinated in the last 6 months receives a top-up booster. This is in line with influenza vaccination regulations in the rest of Europe, where 6 monthly boosters are routinely recommended. This means the levels of antibody against the influenza virus will be maintained at a high level, minimising the severity of the disease if the horse is exposed.

For further advice on Equine Flu, contact your local Horse Health Programme practice >