By Emma Berry
All race meetings in Britain have been cancelled today (Thursday) following confirmation from the Animal Health Trust late on Wednesday evening of three cases of Equine Influenza (EI) in an active racing stable. The yard in question had runners at jump meetings at Ayr and Ludlow on Wednesday.
A statement from the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) read, “Horses from the infected yard have raced 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.”
Equine Influenza is a highly contagious disease and is considered to be the most serious respiratory virus to occur in horses in the UK. Transmission of the disease can occur through indirect contact, for example through people, and it can also be airborne over a reasonable distance. Symptoms include fever, coughing and nasal discharge. There has already been a number of reported cases across Europe this year, several of which have occurred in horses vaccinated against EI.
A widespread outbreak of EI in Australia in 2007 resulted in racing being halted for three days and severe restrictions being imposed on horse movements from a number of equine properties for months.
Three jump meetings had been due to take place in Britain today at Huntingdon, Doncaster and Ffos Las as well as an all-weather Flat meeting at Chelmsford.