What is equine flu?
Equine Influenza, otherwise known as equine flu, is described as the most potentially damaging of the respiratory viruses that occur in horses in the United Kingdom, with symptoms including high fever, coughing and nasal discharge. It is not usually fatal, although there can be complications from pneumonia. Incubation can take two to six days and horses can remain infectious for seven to ten days. Recovery can sometimes take several months.
Why is there so much concern?
Equine flu is highly contagious and can be airborne over reasonable distances as well as being transmitted indirectly, including via people.
Have there been outbreaks of equine flu in the past?
Yes. Mandatory vaccination of racehorses was introduced by the Jockey Club in 1981 following an outbreak in 1979 which caused widespread disruption. A further outbreak occurred in 1989 in which vaccinated horses were not protected. The most major recent outbreak was in 2003 when more than 1,000 horses were affected in 21 yards in Newmarket. However, racing continued during that outbreak.
What has happened recently?
In February 2019, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) reported there had been three positive cases of equine flu in vaccinated racehorses and announced that all meetings in Britain were cancelled for 6 days. The decision was taken so as not to risk further spread of the disease.