Defra’s International Disease Monitoring (IDM) team monitors outbreaks of high impact diseases around the world. African Horse Sickness (AHS) is among those diseases of major concern.

South Africa has reported an outbreak of African Horse Sickness (AHS) in two horses in the City of Cape Town in Western Cape Province within the AHS Protection Zone. The horses developed clinical signs and both tested positive by PCR. The serotype has not been identified. The protection zone is in place to protect the AHS-free zone from which horse exports would be approved for export to the EU. It sits 100km beyond the 50km wide AHS surveillance zone and is part of the Western Cape Province Control Zone; vaccination within this surveillance zone is allowed under Decision 2008/698/EC. This export approval is currently suspended after outbreaks reported in 2013; two years (vector seasons) of freedom are required before an application for free status can be assessed. Disease control measures including vaccination and movement controls are in place.

The AHVLA and Defra consider there is currently a negligible risk of introduction of AHS to the UK from South Africa via legal trade. In February, the Western Cape Province government stopped the movement of horses into the province, as a sudden increase in rainfall across the whole country predicted an increase in cases.There are strict rules governing the movement of equidae from one part of the control zone to another, in order to protect the horses in the free zone.South Africa is currently not approved for the export of equidae directly to the EU from the “free zone” around Cape Town, following previous outbreaks. Two years or two vector seasons free of disease are required to regain disease free status. The increase in rainfall reported across much of South Africa has led to increased vector numbers – although this pertains to the midge vector for AHS, there could also be increasing populations of mosquitoes, responsible for the transmission of other diseases, such as Rift Valley Fever.