African Horse Sickness: Is The U.S. Prepared?

African horse sickness recently made headlines as it traveled to, infected and killed horses in Thailand, believed to be brought to the country on imported zebras. The disease, which is carried by biting midges, is not found in the United States, and officials and those involved in the equine industry intend to keep it that way.

Various state and federal agencies, as well as Texas A&M AgriLife faculty and the equine industry, are carefully monitoring the situation and creating best practices to help prevent the disease from entering the U.S. As equines are moved all over the world for different purposes, the risk that diseases, including African horse sickness, will be introduced to North America is real.

The chance that insects found in the U.S. can act as virus vectors is also present. Biting midges in the United States can transmit two similar viruses: blue tongue and epizoonotic hemorrhagic disease, which affect both livestock and wildlife. It’s imperative that surveillance, detection and planned responses are in place to combat African horse sickness, as well as other diseases, that may enter the country. Advanced knowledge and warning allow for possible prevention before it reaches U.S. borders.

Import requirements are already in place to help reduce the likelihood of virus introduction; horses must be inspected prior to export and undergo 60-day quarantine once they arrive stateside. Additional measures may need to be introduced to help safeguard the equine population in the States.

Texas AgriLife Research and AgriLife Extension have studied the taxonomy, ecology and management of biting midges, and they have the facilities and services in place to assist in both preparation for the disease and to mount a response. A vaccine for the disease is available and effective, but can make horses ill as they contain a live pathogen. Incorrect vaccine administration could lead to the creation of new variants of the disease.

There is still much to be learned about African horse sickness, including vector capacity. The disease could be devastating to the U.S. equine economy, so ongoing, diligent study is needed.

Read more at Bovine Veterinarian.

The post African Horse Sickness: Is The U.S. Prepared? appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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