Equine influenza has emerged as a new threat to Irish horse trainers preparing for big meetings like Cheltenham in mid-March.
The Irish Equine Centre has reported a horse flu outbreak in Munster and Leinster, and advised trainers and handlers to take guidance from their veterinary surgeons.
It follows several outbreaks across Europe, with some of the cases occurring in vaccinated horses, in France, Belgium and Ireland.
The British Horseracing Authority has reported 11 known cases, beginning with four in France in December; four in the UK since January 2: and two in Ireland, one of which was in a vaccinated thoroughbred.
In Ireland, racehorses in training are required to be vaccinated for equine influenza. The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board has advised that all horses which have not had a vaccine containing Clade 1 virus within the last six months are given a booster as soon as possible.
“Horses showing signs that could be flu (especially rapidly spreading nasal discharge and/or harsh dry cough) should be promptly investigated by your vet. These symptoms may only be transient in vaccinated horses.”
Equine influenza is caused by a highly infectious airborne virus, especially in unvaccinated horses.
It is the most potentially damaging of respiratory viruses in equines.
Unvaccinated animals may suffer permanent lung or heart damage, and loss of athletic potential.
Symptoms are less severe in vaccinated horses, ranging from increased temperature and a horse being off feed, to more severe respiratory signs.
Equine influenza is prevented by immunisation of horses through vaccination.
It is essential that much of the equine population is fully vaccinated.