Horse Owners Urged To Be Vigilant for Signs of Equine Influenza

A coughing horse.
A coughing horse. S. Hanusch

Newsdate: Friday, April 30, 2021 - 11:35 am
Location: FARMINGTON, England

Equine influenza is a highly contagious, infectious respiratory disease. It’s caused by a virus that’s inhaled via the nostrils, where it invades the lining of the upper airway. This causes inflammation of the upper airway, which consists of the larynx, trachea and the bronchi.

Veterinarian working in laboratory to diagnose equine disease.

Veterinarian working in laboratory to diagnose equine disease

The virus relies on transmission to new horses to survive and one of the most notable features of flu is the very quick spread in groups of horses, as well as its ability to spread large distances in the air.
© 2014 by OIST New window.

The Animal Health Trust (AHT) is encouraging horse owners to be aware of the clinical signs of equine influenza (EI) which include…

  • harsh, dry coughing
  • nasal discharge
  • lethargy
  • increase in temperature (>38.5°c)

The symptoms may be mild and not all horses will show all of the above signs. If you’re concerned, you should consult your vet as soon as possible. They’ll take a swab and blood sample and send it for testing, free of charge, to the AHT’s EI surveillance scheme, which is funded by the Horserace Betting Levy Board.

EI is a highly contagious respiratory disease that’s spread from horse-to-horse through direct contact, as well as indirect contact. The virus relies on transmission to new horses to survive and one of the most notable features of flu is the very quick spread in groups of horses, as well as its ability to spread large distances in the air.

Horse owners are encouraged to consider their existing arrangements in their yard, this includes practising good general hygiene and isolating any horses showing flu-like signs. The AHT is also recommending horse owners re-vaccinate their horse if their vaccination was carried out over six months ago, in order to maximise the chance of being protected.

Dr Richard Newton, Director of Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance at the Animal Health Trust, said: “With frequent movement of horses and an ability to spread without direct contact, equine flu might appear at any time and in any location. 

With the increase in cases in both vaccinated and unvaccinated horses, we’d urge all horse owners to be extremely vigilant and to follow recommended guidelines on how to detect and prevent the spread of this infectious disease.  If horse owners are concerned they should contact their vet immediately for advice.”

Advice on equine flu, including information on precautions horse owners can take can be found at equiflunet.org.uk.


Press release by Horse and Rider UK

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