Equine influenza is a disease which affects many horse breeders at one time or another.
Prevention is key to the fight of equine influenza, with two separate strains of the virus.
Equine influenza, like most other flus, is caused by strains of influenza A that are enzootic. It is caused by two main strains, equine-1 (H7N7) and equine-2 (H3N8). The H7N7 strain is thought to be now extinct, as they have not been isolated in over 20 years.
The disease has a near 100% infection rate in unvaccinated horses and those with no previous exposure to the virus. It has a very high rate of transmission among horses, making it very dangerous. The virus is not historically known to affect humans.
The virus is spread by horses, infected with the virus, coughing or drinking from contaminated buckets/troughs or other equipment. This makes it vital for farmers to ensure all equipment is cleaned on a daily basis.
The influenza has a very high rate of transmission among horses, with a short incubation time of between 1 to 3 days.
Signs of Equine influenza include:
A high fever, of over 40 degrees celsius.
Dry, heaving cough
Loss of appetite
Pneumonia occurs in secondary infections and horse left untreated also. Horses with mild infections can recover within two to three weeks, while some may take up to 6 months to recover if they have a severe infection. Horses, immune to the virus, will not show signs but will still pass it on.
The disease is described as “debilitating” inflammation of the respiratory mucous membrane and other organs on occasion. It can last for up to 15 days.
When your horse contracts the virus, the best solution is rest. To avoid complications ensure your animal is housed in a warm, dry area and has plenty of access to food and clean water. Vets usually recommend a week’s rest for everyday the virus continues. This is to ensure the regeneration of the damaged mucociliary apparatus.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications can also been given if fever exceeds 40 degrees. Further antibiotics should be administered if pneumonia ensues or your horse’s conditions don’t improve.
The best prevention is through vaccinations and improved hygiene practices. Regular cleaning of all apparatus and equipment should be carried out to prevent the spreading of these viruses through your farm/stables.
If you think your horse maybe coming down with the flu, one should remove them from near other animals immediately They should then be placed into quarantine for up to two weeks.
There are also various vaccines and booster shots available to help prevent your horses from picking up the virus. To find the appropriate one, contact your local vet and consult with the,. A foal can receive vaccination at 6 months of age and every 6 months after. They should also receive a booster shot 3-6 weeks after their first vaccine. Adult horses should be vaccinated annually.