Northern Ireland’s equine owners are being urged to fully adhere to new guidelines aimed at protecting the sector, following an outbreak of a very aggressive strain of Equine Herpesvirus (EHV-1) across Europe.
The International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI) has cancelled international events scheduled to take place in 10 countries across continental Europe with immediate effect and until 28 March 2021.
Initial studies suggest that the rapidly evolving neurological strain of Equine Herpesvirus (EHV-1), has been tracked back to Valencia, Spain and has already resulted in related outbreaks in at least three other countries in Europe.
British and Irish equine bodies have developed guidelines that detail a range of measures horse owners must take to maintain good biosecurity and reduce the risk of any outbreak in Northern Ireland’s equine sector. These include;
- FEI horses will only be permitted to leave FEI competition venues when they are in possession of an official health certificate from the local Veterinary Authorities.
- Each venue will have stringent biosecurity EHV-1 Protocols in place and additional FEI Veterinary Delegates onsite. These movements will be notified via the EU Trade Control and Expert System (TRACES).
- Strict isolation quarantine for returning horses, grooms and athletes, together with interval nasopharyngeal swabs which must be analysed by PCR testing, during the 14 day window.
All competitors from Valencia have been traced by the FEI (over 750 horses) and have been provided with clear guidelines on the measures they should take. In summary, horses should be isolated and remain so until appropriate diagnostic testing has been performed.
Northern Ireland’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Robert Huey said: “I must highlight the importance of all local competitors fully adhering to the guidelines developed by the sector. Veterinary surgeons should also remain alert to the possibility of EHV-1 transmission to other horses that have been in-contact with those returning from Valencia. This is a rapidly evolving disease and situation and we must proceed with the utmost caution to protect our equine industry, which is worth an estimated £170m to £212m per year and responsible for up to 3300 jobs in the rural economy.
“Anyone receiving horses, particularly competition horses, from the continent should seek veterinary advice concerning isolation. They should also follow their governing body’s Equine Herpes Virus guidelines and risk management protocols.
“If biosecurity measures are implemented as directed, the risk of onward transmission is small and horse owners are advised to take sensible precautions. This episode serves as a reminder of the importance of biosecurity, vaccination and having plans in place for protecting horses travelling to, and returning home from, events.”
Equine herpesvirus (EHV) is a common DNA virus occurring in equine populations worldwide and disease outbreaks occur sporadically. It should be noted that it is not a notifiable disease by law. The two most common types are EHV-1, causing abortion, respiratory disease and neurologic disease; and EHV-4, usually resulting in respiratory disease only but can occasionally cause abortion and rarely neurological disease. It is currently unknown what causes some infected horses to develop the serious neurological forms associated with EHV-1 that may be fatal.
Further information on Equine Herpesvirus is available here: Code Of Practice: Equine Herpesvirus - EHV (hblb.org.uk)
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