Island Life Magazine Ltd December 2008/January 2009 - Page 84

life EQUESTRIAN - Sponsored by Brickfields and Froghill Tack Photograph courtesy of Institute for Animal Health, Pirbright What is African Horse Sickness (AHS)? AHS is the most devastating horse disease on the planet. Up to 90% of infected horses die. So far, the disease has been largely confined to Africa but climate change, increased winds and higher summer temperatures mean that it could now be possible for the disease to spread to and thrive in Northern Europe, including Britain. AHS is related to the Bluetongue virus found in sheep and cattle. It is carried and transmitted to horses by the Culicoides family of midges, which are the most common midge in Britain and are also responsible for causing 84 sweet itch. So far, AHS has not been seen in this country but the infection of cattle and sheep with Bluetongue virus causes concern that AHS could also spread if it arrived in the UK. Once a horse has been bitten by a carrier midge, the incubation period of AHS is usually 7 – 14 days but may be as short as two. Although AHS is not directly contagious (not transmitted directly between horses), it can remain in infected horses for a few weeks enabling it to be transferred via blood-sucking midges or even contaminated hypodermic needles. There is no effective treatment. The Mad Control of Hatter’s AHS Tea Party AHS is included in the Infectious Diseases of Horses Order 1987 and the Specified Diseases (Notification & Slaughter) Order 1992. Any suspicion of the disease must be reported by the horse owner or vet to Defra which will implement control regulations. Current European legislation specifies that AHS must be controlled by the slaughter of infected animals, destruction of the carcasses and the establishment of a protection zone of at last 100 kilometres radius around infected premises. Because virus movement over long distances via windborne infected midges has been suggested, a further surveillance zone of at least another 50 kilometres (150 km total) would remain in force for 12 months at Teeth a minimum. Shark’s Vaccination Vaccination is available in Africa where they use a modified version of a live vaccine but none of these vaccines are approved for use in the EU. Live vaccines are unsuitable for Europe where we want to eradicate infection because there is no means of differentiating a vaccinated horse from one exposed to infection! Work is being undertaken by research institutes to develop a safe and effective vaccine but this has not yet resulted in products with commercial licences. Insecticides, repellents The Island's new funky radio station www.wightfm.com