؟Why is equine influenza considered such an important disease
Equine influenza has the capacity to severely disrupt all activities involving horses. Although most adult horses recover from the disease without long term consequences, complete recovery requires 2 months rest. Foals and older horses are much more likely to die from influenza.
؟What is equine influenza
Equine influenza is a disease of horses, donkeys, mules, and ponies caused by infection with the equine influenza virus.
What animals are affected by equine influenza
Only horses, ponies, donkeys and mules are affected by equine influenza.
؟Is equine influenza caused by avian influenza viruses
NO, equine influenza is not caused by avian influenza viruses and there is no spread between horses and birds.
؟Can humans catch equine influenza
؟Why do people need to be so careful in times of contagious disease
Although equine influenza does not affect people, humans can carry virus on their clothes and boots and also on equipment used for horses.
؟Is this a new disease
Australia has been free of equine influenza until the recent suspected episode of disease. However, equine influenza is widespread among horse populations throughout the world and is a common disease of horses in Europe and North America.
؟How is equine influenza spread
Horses are infected by inhalation of the virus. It is spread only between horses, but it can be carried from one horse to another on hands, clothing, footwear, tack, saddles, water buckets and other equipment. Trailers and trucks used to transport horses can be contaminated with the virus, which can then spread it to other horses.
؟How long does the virus live outside a horse
The virus is very fragile and easily destroyed by sunlight, heat, and soap. It can survive at least overnight and perhaps longer outside the horse, for instance in trailers and on tack. The virus can survive in water for days, horse blood for 18 hours (37°C), horse urine for 5-6 days and for 24 hours in soil.
؟How soon after a horse has become infected will it show signs of influenza
Between 1 and 5 days.
؟How long is a horse infectious
Horses start to shed virus before they show signs of disease and can continue to excrete infectious influenza virus for up to 14 days after they have first shown signs of disease.
؟Is the disease easily spread
Yes, the equine influenza spreads rapidly between horses and many horses can become sick in a short period of time.
؟What are the signs of equine influenza
These develop quickly and include:
Fever (with rectal temperatures of 39 to 41.5°C)
Frequent hacking coughing
Watery nasal discharge - although later this can be mucopurulent (a yellow mixture of mucus and pus)
Loss of appetite
Malaise, depression and stiffness
Laboured breathing, especially in foals and old, debilitated horses
؟Can horses die from equine influenza
Death is uncommon in horses with equine influenza, although foals and older, weak horses are at increased risk of dying. A small proportion of otherwise healthy horses can develop secondary pneumonia, which is a serious disease.
؟What is the treatment for equine influenza
؟There is no specific treatment.
Antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu and Relenza should NOT be used in horses.
Sick horses should be rested and kept warm and dry. They should have constant access to water and good quality hay.
Anti-inflammatory drugs such as phenylbutazone or flunixime meglumine (Finadyne®) may provide the horse some comfort. These should only be administered to a horse under the supervision of a veterinarian as they can have serious adverse effects in sick horses.
Antibiotics are not usually needed, as almost all horses start to recover in about 7 days. Your veterinarian will advise on specific treatment for your horse.
؟What should I do if I suspect that my horse has equine influenza
You should immediately contact a veterinarian. You, and the veterinarian, have a legal responsibility to report any suspicion of equine influenza.
؟Can equine semen or equine embryos spread the disease
There is no evidence that equine semen or equine embryos can spread the virus.
؟Is there a vaccine for equine influenza
Yes, there are vaccines available for equine influenza overseas. They prevent most of the signs of disease but do not prevent horses becoming infected and spreading virus to unvaccinated horses.
؟How soon after vaccination are horses protected
Horses require two doses of vaccine at least 4 weeks apart, and they are not fully protected until a week after the second dose. Thus, if vaccination was started today, it would be 5 weeks before the horse was protected.
؟Is the vaccination available for Australian horses now
No, it is not.
؟Will the vaccination be available for horses this year
Routine vaccination for equine influenza virus is not currently permitted in Australia because it can complicate diagnosis and control measures. Specialist veterinarians and equine industry focus groups will continue to consider the best approach for Australian horses as the current situation develops.
؟What disinfectants kill the equine influenza virus
Most common disinfectants inactivate the virus (eg. phenolics, 70% alcohol, iodophors, chloroxylenol (Dettol) and chlorhexidine).
Phenolic disinfectants work better than many others when there is manure and dirt and bedding (organic material) in the environment to be disinfected . Virkon can be used on equipment and surfaces, as well as on boots and wheels, but should not be used on human or animal skin.
Read the directions on the label before using any disinfectant.
؟Can a blood test for antibodies to equine influenza virus tell the difference between a horse that is vaccinated for equine influenza virus and a horse that has been infected with the equine influenza virus
Blood tests for antibodies to equine influenza cannot tell the difference between antibodies due to infection and antibodies due to vaccination. It is not possible to tell if a horse was exposed to the virus or was vaccinated. This is important because surveillance is such an important part of keeping Australian horses safe.
؟Where can I get further information
For questions about individual horses, contact your veterinarian or the University of Melbourne Equine Centre (03-9731-2268)
For more information about equine influenza, including control measures, visit the following sites:
Animal Health Australia website at http://www.animalhealthaustralia.com.au/ and click on Ausvetplan Manuals.
For a global perspective on equine influenza, visit Equiflunet at: http://www.equiflunet.org.uk/
Prepared by Dr. C. Savage, Prof. K. Hinchcliff, Prof. G. Browning, and Dr. J. Gilkerson of the
University of Melbourne. August 25th, 2007
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