The aim of the equine influenza programme at the Animal Health Trust (AHT) is to support the racing industry by providing information on equine influenza and minimising the effects of this highly infectious disease on the domestic racehorse population.
Among other activities, the programme monitors the prevalence of, and changes in, different strains of the equine influenza virus. The resulting information is used by vaccine manufacturers to ensure that appropriate strains are included in their equine influenza vaccines.
The programme also includes investigation of outbreaks of equine influenza, investigating and testing vaccine efficacy against the different strains of the virus, developing and promoting international acceptance of highest vaccine standards and advising on codes of practice and contingency plans to minimise the spread of infection both nationally and internationally. HBLB's annual support for the programme in 2015 will be £216,000.
The most recent outbreak of equine influenza in the UK was in 2003, when infection was confirmed in 21 training yards in Newmarket. However, a more recent severe outbreak in Australia in 2007 served as a reminder of the potential disruption and economic loss caused by the disease. Thanks to HBLB’s funding, the AHT was able to respond quickly to events, providing expert advice and support to the Australian authorities, and thereby minimising the risk to the domestic horse population.
Research is being directed at further examination of the different strains involved in the outbreaks and the efficacy of the vaccines and vaccination procedures available. The AHT is an OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) equine influenza reference laboratory.
For further information on the Animal Health Trust’s work on equine influenza, visit www.aht.org.uk.