Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - Mark Humph

Defra recently hosted a brainstorming exercise on the threat posed by exotic disease to the UK's equine population and to the success of the equestrian games. Including the Para Olympics, 358 horses representing 52 countries will converge on Greenwich Park where they will be stabled in open barn type accommodation.

For the first time in the Games' history an Equine Staging Post will be set up some 10miles from the Greenwich site. Teams will arrive at prearranged times and the horses will undergo a clinical health and documentation check by the London Olympic Committee's (LOCOG) veterinary team with responsibility for bio security led by BEVA Past President, Prof Josh Slater. Any suspect horses will be held in isolation for observation and further tests. Clear horses will be transported directly onwards to the Greenwich site after which there are no further LOCOG programmed health checks and responsibility for the horses' health falls to the FEI working with the teams own vets. At the Staging Post all kit will be removed from the horseboxes for security checking before sealing and separate onward transmission to Greenwich.

The exotic disease threats considered in the exercise were; EIA which is endemic in parts of Europe (including Italy), AHS which is currently only found in Africa, Glanders which is resurgent in the Middle East and also poses a zoonotic threat, and Foot and Mouth because of the presence of a captive deer herd on the Greenwich site and its potential to disrupt movement. A number of scenarios for each disease were considered from confirmed outbreaks in the horses' country of origin through to a case in the Greenwich stables. Not surprisingly AHS posed the biggest potential threat although the probability remains very low. 

As a result of the exercise the detailed planning for the Games, such as the isolation procedures, will be modified but it is clear that the influx of Olympic horses does not pose any significant additional threat to our native horse population.  Indeed the potential for a threat to the Olympic horses from the UK's own (low value) horse population was also considered.

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