AFRICAN HORSE SICKNESS - SOUTH AFRICA: UPDATE ******************************************

 

Ravaging disease 'kills more than 400 horses a day'

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African horse sickness [AHS] is taking its toll on [South Africa], with than more 10 horses a day dying of the illness in the province [of Kwa-Zulu Natal] with a total of 410 dying countrywide and a

fatality rate above 65 percent.

 

Fortunately, the racing industry has remained relatively unscathed, according to Douglas Welsh of the African Horse Sickness Trust. Welsh said he was aware of breeding studs and racing stables where the

sickness had pounced but that the racing industry had not been disrupted. "To date, the racing industry has not had to cancel or postpone any race meetings but people in this sector of the equine industry are more aware of the implications of AHS and have taken all precautions possible."

 

Hot spots are Pretoria North and West, and Bapsfontein in Gauteng, Harrismith, Vrede and Memel in Free State, Mamre in Western Cape, and Kuruman and Hotazel in the Northern Cape. Welsh has also received AHS reports from Namibia and Swaziland.

 

The most affected areas in the province are Ladysmith, Newcastle, Dundee, Mooi River and Nquthu, where horses are used for transport and sometimes for sport. Harrismith in Free State is also affected by the disease.

 

With a national horse herd estimated at near the 275 000 mark, vaccination is the only way to protect against the sickness. The diseases is [transmitted] by midges, with stricken horses suffering flu-like symptoms and swelling in the head, eyes and neck.

 

The European Union banned the export of horses from South Africa on 9 Mar 2011.

 

Welsh said the organisation received reports of at least 10 horses dying of the disease in the province daily. "This is not a new disease and it happens every year but this year it is worse."

 

He added that less than half the national herd was vaccinated, based on vaccination sales.

 

Menzi Buthelezi, chairperson of the KZN Rural Horse Riding Association, said the disease was having a devastating economic impact.

 

"I know another member who had bought a horse for R30 000 [about 4400 USD] in January 2011 and it died within a month after contracting the disease. It is sad," he said. Buthelezi said some of the horses had died despite being vaccinated.

 

Chairperson of Racing SA Peter Gibson said the EU ban had a negative impact on horse breeders.