Equine Influenza Halts Horse Racing
British horseracing was suspended on Thursday 7th February after an outbreak of equine flu at Bankhouse Stables in Cheshire. It is thought that racing will not re-start until Wednesday 13th at the earliest, although some are predicting a much longer break.
What is equine flu?
Equine influenza is similar to human flu, and leads to a cough, high fever of 39 to 41 degrees C and discharge from the nose and mouth. The cough can cause ulcerations, which can then become infected by bacteria further complicating the health situation. Like human flu, the disease is a highly contagious virus, which is spread by particles in the air, breathed out by infected animals and breathed in by new victims. Although similar to the human version, equine flu presents no danger to people.
Why has racing been shut down?
The nature of horseracing makes biosecurity incredibly complicated. Just like children going to school, mixing with other children and picking up coughs and colds, horses mix with many others on a daily basis at meetings across the country. To complicate matters, different horses mix at different racecourses every day, making a shut down the only viable way to stop a rapid spread of the disease.
In a statement, the British Horseracing Association said: “This precautionary approach is intended to ensure we put the health of the horse population and control of the virus first. We appreciate the impact that this may have on the sport commercially, but disease control to safeguard the health and welfare of our horses - must be a priority."
“Disease control to safeguard the health and welfare of our horses must be a priority.”
British Horseracing Association
Aren’t horses inoculated against equine influenza ?
By law, all British trainers have been obliged to inoculate their horses against the disease since 1981 and major outbreaks have been few and far between since then. Without inoculation, the disease can be fatal to the animal. However, like the flu virus in other animals, equine flu can mutate and form new strains that are immune to certain versions of the inoculation currently in use, although other forms of the inoculations that are available in the UK will still be effective. All three horses diagnosed with equine flu in this outbreak have had their compulsory inoculations, and this is what is of most concern to the BHA.
The cocktail of inoculations is reviewed annually by the Equine Surveillance Panel. Their next meeting is in Paris in April, where they will decide if any changes need to be made to combat this new threat.
Kilco – your biosecurity partner
When it comes to stable biosecurity and disease prevention and control, Kilco have unrivalled experience and expertise. From managing new arrivals and horses returning from racing, through mucking out and stable hygiene, to disease control protocols, Kilco experts can help create an effective system of products and procedures that will minimise infections in your yard.
Recently a renowned trainer from Cheltenham asked Kilco for help with his yard and was impressed with the results. “Kilco recommended a hygiene programme that tells us which products to use in different areas of the yard. This allows the team to get on with the job knowing they are working effectively. This season our horses have remained in good health while other yards have suffered from various viral infections. I believe this is due to the effectiveness of these products.”
“I would happily recommend the Kilco range to anyone looking to implement a robust biosecurity plan for any size of yard or equine environment.”
Racehorse Trainer, Newmarket
Effective equine biosecurity products
Kilco, now part of the Kersia Group, can support stables at every stage with proven biosecurity products. Ecofoam Advanced offers hygienic stable cleaning, especially when different animals are using the same stalls, while Kleenfleet offers effective cleaning of vehicles returning from meetings, ensuring nothing is brought into the stables from outside. Virex offers wide ranging disinfection against bacterial and viral challenges, while Envirex biocidal bedding powder keeps stalls infection free and reduces the chances of bedding becoming a potential source of contamination.
Together, Kilco products can deliver a joined-up biosecurity programme, with experts on hand to design a complete system for your stables that is as safe as possible, yet simple and straightforward for your staff to use.
How long will the shut down be?
Equine flu has an incubation period of around three days, so racing has been stopped until that period has passed, and no new cases have been identified. In theory, this could be as early as Monday 11th Feb, allowing for declarations on Tuesday and racing to resume on Wednesday. However, some are less optimistic, with trainer, Tim Vaughn concerned that the shut down could last for weeks, putting next month’s Cheltenham Festival in jeopardy.
Cornelius Lysaght, the BBC horse racing correspondent described it as a “dramatic turn of events” at this point in the season. “So near to the Cheltenham Festival, this couldn’t have happened at a worse time,” he said.
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