Equine Flu – Should I Be worried?



The simplest answer is to follow this advice:
  • Ensure your horse has received a vaccination booster in the last 6 months and encourage others to do so as well. If your horse is not vaccinated, it will need to start a course of vaccinations and will not have protection until two weeks after the second vaccine in the course is given.
  • Mitigate against the risk of moving your horse and only take your horse to facilities where you are sure that all equines are vaccinated and there have been no clinical signs or flu cases reported within 5km.
  • Have a strict policy that no horse must be brought into your yard unless they have records to show that they have received a 6 month booster vaccination.
The fact is that the majority of reported cases are in unvaccinated horses. Vaccinated horses so far have demonstrated that they have a level of protection to this new strain, their clinical signs have been milder and they have recovered faster than an unvaccinated horse.
Equine Flu is endemic in the UK. This means that a number of cases of flu are always expected to be seen, as the virus is constantly circulating within the UK horse population. The current problem is that there are more cases of equine flu than would normally be expected due to a new strain of flu in circulation – it’s called Florida Clade 1 H3N8.
The indications your horse has the flu are:
  • Lethargy / poor performance
  • Loss of appetite
  • Coughing (dry / harsh / hacking)
  • Fever – anything over 38.5°
  • Nasal discharge
Should you see any of the clinical signs in your own or other horse on your yard the message is clear.
  1. Immediately isolate new or unwell horses away from the main yard to help prevent the disease spreading. It spreads easily, quickly and is a very contagious virus. It is transmitted by respiratory droplets, through direct horse-to-horse contact and coughing. One of the really notable features of flu is the very quick spread of signs in a group of horses. The virus can spread large distances in the air and this is one of the reasons why it is very important to control outbreaks as early as possible. Health care equipment and personnel (hands, clothing, etc.) can also indirectly transmit the virus.
  2. Call your vet and they can take a swab sample from your horse’s nose and a blood sample, to confirm if your horse has flu. Swabs are best taken early on in the course of the infection. Making a quick diagnosis helps to ensure that the best supportive care is given to your horse and that the correct preventative measures are put in place to stop the virus spreading. Not only will you get a diagnosis but you are also helping to monitor equine influenza activity in the UK.
As with human flu, rest, supportive care and anti-inflammatories are usually all that is needed and with time, your horse will feel better.
Feeding a Blue Chip feed balancer will stand your horse in good stead and help to strengthen his immune response. All Blue Chip feed balancers contain a full vitamin and nutrient package to ensure the correct functioning of the metabolic system, central nervous system, immune system, proper growth rates, bone strength and joint health. Blue Chip uses organic minerals to ensure optimum absorption and effectiveness for overall health and wellbeing. Blue Chip feed balancers also combine probiotics with nucleotides. Not all probiotics are created equal, probiotics are a live yeast and the special strain used in Blue Chip feed balancers has been researched and approved for equine use. At the forefront of modern nutrition, nucleotides are organic molecules, the essential building blocks of RNA and DNA and therefore vital for cell replication and overall heath.
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