Thursday 18 July 2019

Racing will continue in Ireland today despite cancellation of UK meetings after equine flu outbreak

A general view of jockeys and horses at Kempton Park yesterday. Photo: Getty
A general view of jockeys and horses at Kempton Park yesterday. Photo: Getty

Race meetings will go ahead in Ireland today despite meetings in the UK being cancelled after three confirmed cases of equine influenza were reported to the British Horseracing Authority.

It is not known which horses were affected, however a statement late last night confirmed that there had been three positives from vaccinated horses in an active yard.

The statement released late last night read: "The British Horseracing Authority (BHA), with unanimous support of the BHA's industry veterinary committee, has taken the decision to cancel racing at all British racecourses on Thursday 7 February 2019. This is following the BHA being informed this evening by the Animal Health Trust of three confirmed Equine Influenza positives from vaccinated horses in an active racing yard.

"Horses from the infected yard have raced today 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 and 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 have potentially been exposed today and 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 possible 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."

Horse Racing Ireland and the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board have confirmed that racing will continue in Ireland for the time being.

In a joint-statement they said: "Following the British Horseracing Authority’s announcement that racing is suspended in Britain because of equine influenza and consultation with the IHRB Board, Veterinary Committee, Irish Equine Centre and HRI overnight, the IHRB confirm these decisions in the context that at present within Ireland the disease risk status in racing Thoroughbreds has not yet changed.

"The BHA’s rapid communication last night enabled the IHRB to contact and advise those trainers who had runners at Ayr and Ludlow yesterday to take appropriate steps to isolate the horses before they returned into their yards and so minimize the potential risk of further spread of the disease in Ireland. We have been aware of a small number of isolated cases of equine influenza in Ireland over the last couple of weeks as per our advice issued on 19th January.  As an interim precaution, the IHRB and HRI have decided that runners from Britain will not be permitted to run in Ireland in an effort to reduce the risk of further spread of the disease via horse movement.

"Horses will continue to be able to race across the north/south of the island of Ireland."

About Equine Influenza

The statement also gave the following details about the disease:

"Equine influenza is a highly infectious disease of horses, mules and donkeys occurring globally caused by strains of Influenza A virus. It is the most potentially damaging of the respiratory viruses that occur in UK equines and disease symptoms in non-immune animals include high fever, coughing and nasal discharge.

"The outbreak at the infected yard follows the identification of a number of equine influenza cases across Europe and the UK, including several in vaccinated horses. Following the recent outbreaks guidance was sent to trainers to inform them that all horses which have not had a vaccination against Equine Influenza within the last six months should receive a booster vaccination, and that trainers should be extra-vigilant with biosecurity. However, equine influenza can be highly contagious and - unlike other infectious diseases - can be airborne over reasonable distances as well as be transmitted indirectly, including via people. There are no known consequences for humans associated with exposure to the disease.

The Animal Health Trust are the equine monitoring agent for disease surveillance in the UK and information is posted on their website and twitter feeds."

Irish Independent

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