WEEKLY TIMES — MAY 15, 2012 — A confirmed case of the disease has been reported at an event at La Baule, in northwest France. The horse had been competing at an event at Le Touquet, in northeast France, two weeks previously.
And three sport horse-breeding and training farms, all within a 32km radius of Normandy’s Calvados region about three hours from La Baule, have confirmed positive to the outbreak.
In total, 210 horses are showing signs of fever and/or cough, including all 150 residing on one farm, 45 out of 70 at the second and 15 out of 70 at the third, French veterinary agency RESPE reported.
All horses had been vaccinated on all farms, except horses under two years of age.
The Federation Equestre Internationale has moved quickly to reassure the industry the risk posed is minimal and effective measures have been put in place.f
It said its vaccination protocols for equine influenza were more stringent than many other regulators.
“There is a requirement for FEI horses to be vaccinated within six months of competing, whereas many regulators only require annual vaccination,” the FEI said in a statement.
The FEI said it was monitoring horses at the La Baule event, along with La Baule organising committee’s veterinary advisors.
It said the French showjumping team had pulled its top four horses from the La Baule event to ensure their good health for the London Olympic Games.
The procedure used to test the horses at La Baule was known as polymerase chain-reaction swab testing, a super-sensitive forensic-type test for viral infections.
“PCR looks for parts of the influenza virus and is not an indicator that the virus is active, inactive, capable of producing disease, or that a horse is a risk to other horses,” the FEI said.
“Equine influenza is commonly found throughout the world on this type of test in healthy horses.
“Precautionary testing on some horses at La Baule has resulted in PCR positives for two horses. None of the horses in La Baule, including the two PCR-positive horses, are showing any signs of fever or any symptoms of disease.”
The FEI said to minimise an already low risk, the La Baule organising committee, in agreement with the FEI, removed the two PC- positive horses from the showgrounds, as well as four horses who had been handled by the same grooms.
In addition, all other horses from the same stable block would be moved to a separate isolation facility on the showgrounds, it said.
“There are no sick horses at La Baule, and neither of the horses that had a positive PCR test have shown any symptoms at all,” FEI veterinary director Graeme Cooke said. “These measures, that could be viewed as being excessive, have been put in place after consultation with all parties involved to ensure the health status of all the horses at La Baule.
“We have been in constant contact with the OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) global expert on equine influenza, who has fully approved the measures taken.
“All horses attending FEI events must comply with a strict vaccination policy.”