11th February, 2019

Current cases highlight the importance of bio-security precautions, says BETA.

Common sense should prevail during the current equine flu outbreak, says the British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA).

A crisis in horse racing unfolded last week after six cases of equine flu were discovered in vaccinated horses at a trainer’s Cheshire yard.

All UK racing is on hold until at least this Wednesday (13 February) while the British Horseracing Authority conducts testing across the country.

Last Friday, BETA’s veterinary consultant noted that the current outbreak was affecting small pockets of the racing thoroughbred sector with no evidence of wider spread.

The trade association has issued advice for those businesses receiving equipment – for example rugs for washing or clipper blades for sharpening - or visiting yards.

The virus is spread through close contact or proximity (up to 20 metres) and will persist for some time after contact (hours potentially not days), is BETA’s veterinary advice. 

In the case of rugs, clippers and other equipment being brought into store for cleaning, sharpening or repair, anyone touching these items who may also be in contact with horses should wash their hands thoroughly after handling with an anti-viral substance available as gels, wipes or tablets and liquid for dilution.

Many antibacterial washes are also anti-viral, so the small print should be checked. If a substance or wipes claim to kill the human flu, then it will have the same effect on equine flu - and thus do the necessary job. Two of the most commonly used brands include Virkon and Trigene.

BETA’s executive director Claire Williams says the current outbreak highlights the importance of bio-security for all businesses coming into contact with equines.

“If you or members of staff visit yards, then please use common sense – now and in the future. Whilst this flu outbreak raises specific questions, bio-security precautions should be taken whenever visiting yards.”

BETA suggests the following protocol:

1. Before going to a yard call, check its health status and ensure that there are no horses coughing or with snotty noses.
2. Avoid or postpone visits to yards where there are signs of illness.
3. Sensible bio-security measures should be taken as a precaution if visiting yards, such as washing hands thoroughly with anti-viral washes or wipes following contact or close proximity with each horse.
4. Any kit that has touched or been in proximity with horses should also be wiped.
5. The same applies to clothing where there is evidence of dirt, spit or nasal discharges on them. Either change outer layers, wipe down with wipes or wear disposable covers/overalls.