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Equine Influenza: How to reduce the risk of flu getting into your yard

As of midday today (Tuesday 12th February), the latest confirmation in the South West of Equine Influenza was on a premises in Somerset and was confirmed by the AHT on Thursday 7th February. The affected horse is a vaccinated non–Thoroughbred and required no treatment. There is one other horse with similar clinical signs and there are a total of 50 horses on the premises. All horse movements have been voluntarily stopped and all horses are being closely monitored.

Below we have given some some advice on the steps to take if there is a case in your area, or on your yard. If you have any concerns about equine flu, please call us on 01392 876622(option 2).

How can flu spread?
Flu is very contagious and is transmitted by respiratory droplets, through direct horse-to horse contact and coughing. Signs of flu spread very quickly in a group of horses. The virus can spread through the air up to 2km as well as indirectly through tack, yard equipment, feed bowls, clothing, hands etc.

What are the signs?
The classic signs of flu in an unvaccinated horse is a harsh dry cough, a fever, nasal discharge and depression. Horses that have been vaccinated may only show mild signs such as poor performance, lethargy, nasal discharge and possibly a cough. A vaccinated horse is likely to get better much faster, will spread less virus, meaning that other horses are less likely to get sick. Not all horses with equine flu will show obvious signs. Seek veterinary advice as soon as possible if you have any concerns about your horse.

How can you reduce the risk of flu getting in your yard?
• Keep a close eye out for signs of flu and call your vet if you think any horse is showing signs.

• Get your horse vaccinated if it has not been vaccinated before or if its last booster was more than 6 months ago. This is particularly important for horses who may be more at risk through travel to competition and training venues, moving to a new yard, or who may have been in contact with potentially infected horses.

• Ideally avoid contact with other yards and unknown horses. There should be protocols for new horses to your yard - ideally in an isolation facility for 3 weeks before mixing them with the resident horses. Before arrival, confirm that the new horse has been vaccinated.

• If your horse is kept on a livery yard, it is good practice to ensure that everyone is aware of the biosecurity protocols and horse movements in and out of the yard. it is also good practice to have a record of visitors.

• Do not take your horse anywhere if there is a sick horse on your yard. Check that there has been no sick horses reported by the venue and whether there is a policy for visiting horses/horses that are kept there are vaccinated. Some venues have now put in place the requirement to show vaccination history on your horse's passports when arriving at the venue. When away from the yard, take your own equipment - feed buckets, etc and avoid communal areas and contact with other horses. Disinfect equipment when you arrive back at the yard.

• Farriers, saddle fitters, physios and personnel who have had contact with horses should take special precautions as they could transmit disease between horses and between yards. Tell them if there are any sick horses on the yard, or any horses that you suspect might have flu. If it has been confirmed, postpone all but essential visits.

• Try to keep feed or other deliveries separate from the horses.

What do I do if flu is suspected on your yard?
• Call your vet and they can take a swab from your horse’s nose and a blood sample to confirm your horse has flu.

• Making a quick diagnosis helps to ensure the best care possible.

What happens if a case of flu is confirmed?
• Your vet will advise you on the treatment. This might entail rest, supportive care and anti-inflammatory medications.

• Measures to prevent flu will be yard specific and tailor made by your vet. It would include isolation of infected horses, the movement of horses on and off the yard stopped and increased monitoring of all horses on the yard.

Please click here to view the AHT overview of the latest UK outbreaks. 

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