On 31st October 2012 the Animal Health Trust was made aware by French colleagues at Réseau d'Epidémio-Surveillance en Pathologie Equine (RESPE) of two outbreaks of equine influenza in France, with a common link to a recent horse sales in Ireland. The first outbreak was reported at a riding centre in Seine-et-Marne in central-northern France, near Paris. The affected horse was a five-year-old unvaccinated female Connemara horse that showed clinical signs of a cough, pyrexia and nasal discharge. A positive diagnosis was made by PCR on a nasopharyngeal swab and five other horses on the premises have been affected. The second outbreak was reported in Finistère in Brittany, north-east France, involving another unvaccinated Connemara pony that also showed clinical signs of coughing, pyrexia and nasal discharge. A positive diagnosis was also made by PCR on nasopharyngeal swab and six other horses at the premises have been affected.
RESPE warned in their notification that many ponies may have been bought during the sale in Ireland and dispatched to other countries in Europe. In these circumstances the Animal Health Trust is keen to raise awareness among UK veterinary surgeons who may be called to attend horses with clinical signs that may be attributable to equine influenza virus infection occurring shortly after introduction of a recently purchased horse, particularly but not necessarily exclusively from France or Ireland at this time. Clinical signs may be rapidly spreading among groups of non-vaccinated animals and often include a characteristic harsh, dry cough, fever and associated inappetance and nasal discharge which may begin serous but soon becomes mucopurulent in nature.
The Animal Health Trust through generous support of its equine influenza surveillance programme by the Horserace Betting Levy Board is able to provide testing for equine influenza at no cost to the veterinary surgeon, where flu is strongly suspected as the cause of the clinical disease. Viruses isolated as part of the programme are characterised and contribute to the on-going monitoring of the global situation with respect to viral strain evolution and vaccine performance. For further details, including how to register for free influenza diagnoses, please see the AHT equine influenza website at http://www.aht.org.uk/cms-display/equiflunet.html.
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