BEF EHV update: 18.03.21
The FEI recently announced an extension to the cancellation of international competition in Europe following the EHV-1 outbreak on the continent which has so far claimed the lives of 17 horses. With competition and wider equestrian activities due to get underway in Great Britain from 29 March, British Equestrian is working with the Equine Infectious Diseases Action Group (EIDAG) and our member bodies to help mitigate the spread of EHV from Europe.
Equine Herpes Virus (EHV) circulates in the UK constantly. It commonly causes mild fever and respiratory signs and occasionally it leads to neurological signs, abortion and neonatal illness. There are an increased number of reports of EHV from a number of European countries suggesting that currently, there is a mildly increased risk of EHV infection in the UK over and above the usual ever present threat.
In response to reports of more serious disease centring on elite events in the Iberian Peninsula, showjumpers, eventers and dressage horses returning to the UK from these areas have been identified and traced. Strict quarantine is being imposed on their return with comprehensive protocols in place for biosecurity and testing.
Professor Celia Marr, chairman of the EIDAG comments: “It’s essential that if any of these horses are infected, we do not allow the virus to escape into the general horse population. Fortunately, quarantine is an effective way to control EHV because it requires close horse-to-horse contact to spread. We are confident that British Equestrian’s Track, Isolate, Test protocols is well underway with the disciplines and is doing its job effectively.”
In light of this mildly increased risk, the EIDAG is advising that all member bodies restrict activities to ‘stay local’ until at least 12 April so no overnight stays or stabling. There are a small number of elite training and competitions which require overnight stays currently scheduled. These gatherings will have enhanced biosecurity and protocols in place which have be prepared by the BEF Director of Equine Sports Science and Medicine, John McEwen.
In a further step to minimise any spread of EHV, the EIDAG also recommend the implementation of a new self-certification process for riders to declare that their horses are healthy have not been in contact with any others showing signs of infectious disease. Member bodies who agree to implement self-cortication will work with their organisers and venues to on a system to make the declaration before the horse arrives at the venue. Competitors should follow the information on each competition schedule on how to submit their information. This process will be in place for 29 March to 12 April but could stay in place should the risk level dictate.
Philip Ivens, a specialist in equine internal medicine and member of both the EIDAG and its Emergency Response Group advises; “Riders should always bear in mind, events, training camps and competitions are occasions when infectious disease can spread. Making sure that you stop your horse from making direct with others, using your own equipment and monitoring your horse for fever or other signs of infectious disease when you return home are sensible ways to reduce risk. Riders should not be more concerned about EVH at the moment – it is easy to forget that risk of infectious diseases such as EHV and Strangles is always with us and not let our vigilance drop.”
Celia Marr adds; “We’ve all learned the importance of protecting each other during the COVID pandemic – now we need to apply the same principles of creating space and diligent hygiene to protect everyone’s horses.”