Fue Outbreak with Horses

Keeping your horse safe during a flu outbreak, there are a few things to read about. 

The recent equine influenza outbreak in the UK has turned the horse world on its head. With competitions being cancelled, yards on total lockdown and the outbreak reaching front page news, it’s no wonder people are panicking. But there are steps that can be taken to protect both your horse and others at the yard, from infection.

Equine flu affects the respiratory tract of horses. It’s highly contagious and can lead to a nasty cough in horses. Other symptoms include a high temperature, nasal discharge as well as discharge from the eyes, enlarged glands under the jaw and loss of appetite. Equine flu can be spread airborne or it can be carried from horse to horse by humans – making it very difficult to stop it spreading.

Ensure all vaccinations are up to date

The number one way to keep your horse safe during the flu outbreak is to ensure their vaccinations are up to date. Horses will require a booster vaccine within a year of their last vaccination if they are competing, and in some areas, this booster might be required every 6 months.

If flu spreads to your area, your horse may need a booster vaccine if they have not had one in 6 months. While the flu vaccine doesn’t guarantee protection, the vaccine is very effective and vaccinated horses who still catch the flu usually have much milder symptoms.

Speak to your yard owner during a flu outbreak

A busy livery yard can be a nightmare during a flu outbreak. If new horses are arriving on the yard they should have all their vaccinations up to date, and your yard owner should ensure that no horses are to travel if any other horses on the yard appear unwell. While isolating horses when they arrive, or a total lockdown of the yard altogether might be unrealistic, your yard owner should have steps in place to ensure your yard is safe.

Be wary when it comes to travelling

If the flu has not spread to your area, you will be able to take your horse to local competitions and venues. Keep in mind however that other owners might not have taken the same precautions, and they may travel their horse to competitions from affected areas. During an outbreak, many competition venues will inspect each horses’ passport before you are allowed to unload your horse to check their vaccinations are up to date.

You should not travel your horse if any of the horses on the yard have shown signs of disease in the past 7 days, even if you do not think your horse has flu.

Ensure those who care for your horse practice preventative hygiene

Preventative hygiene should be practiced by you and everyone who comes into contact with your horse. Ensure you use your own feed, water buckets, and grooming kits. Anything that’s come into contact with another horse should be disinfected, and wash your clothes and skin if you have paid a visit to another yard or been in contact with a horse you think might be unwell.

Others who come into contact with your horse, for example, farriers, vets, instructors and physiotherapists should be washing their hands and changing their clothing if they have come into contact with affected horses, or even if they have travelled from affected areas. While professionals in the industry will usually be very vigilant during an outbreak, it is always worth checking.