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Equine flu outbreak in Shropshire confirmed

By Dominic Robertson | News | Published:

An outbreak of equine flu in Shropshire has been confirmed by animal health officials, who say the four horses affected attended a hunt meeting days before.

The Animal Health Trust said that other horses that attended the hunt meet, which took place on February 9, had since also tested positive.

A spokesman for the AHT said: "On February 15, AHT confirmed an outbreak of equine influenza (EI) on a premises in Shropshire.

"There are a total of four unvaccinated non-thoroughbreds on the premises and all have tested positive for EI by PCR on nasopharyngeal swabs.

"Clinical signs have been mild to moderate in severity, all have been coughing, lethargic and have bilateral nasal discharge and two cases were pyrexic on the day of examination.

"These horses attended a hunt meet on 9 February and presented with clinical signs three days after. Other horses that attended this meet from other premises have also since been confirmed positive."

The AHT has said that it had seen more cases than it would normally expect, due to a new strain of flu in circulation.

Samples

A spokesman said: "Through our own laboratories, we continue to test samples from horses suspected of having flu. To 17 February, we have confirmed 29 flu outbreaks across 17 counties in England and Scotland.

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"Equine flu is endemic in the UK. This means that a number of cases of flu are always expected to be seen, as the virus is constantly circulating within the UK horse population. Owners should ensure they are aware of the symptoms of flu and call their vet immediately to make a fast diagnosis, to avoid the spread of the infection."

The organisation said the latest outbreak showed the importance of vaccinating against the illness.

The spokesman said: "Vaccinated horses should have a level of protection to this new strain. If vaccinated horses are exposed to the virus, clinical signs should be milder and they should get better faster than an unvaccinated horse. This has been demonstrated in the vaccinated cases seen so far this year. We continue to emphasise the importance of vaccination in protecting horses against equine flu.

"Reassuringly, we can confirm that vaccines are providing a better degree of protection than was initially thought when disease outbreaks became apparent in Europe, especially when recent boosting has been implemented. We recommend that all horse owners revaccinate their horse if the booster vaccination was given more than six months ago.

"It is clear that this strain of the virus (Florida Clade 1 H3N8) is not going away and is taking advantage of any opportunity given to it to spread among our horse population. Collectively, we all need to do everything we can to minimise these opportunities."

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