Back in the cold days of late winter I was asked if I would present a series of videos about equine flu in a campaign called Fit to Go. I am a massive lover of horses and an equally enthusiastic advocate of vaccination. Vaccinations have saved millions and millions of human and animal lives and are the only way to try and truly eradicate disease. Having been a small animal vet for almost 20 years it was a great opportunity to indulge my love of horses for a day and also help get the message out there about equine flu.
Competition horses must be vaccinated but the sad fact is that only about 50% of horses in the UK are vaccinated against this disease. Unvaccinated horses can be horribly afflicted by the virus and become very ill. In rare cases secondary bacterial pneumonia can be fatal so it’s something we should all be aware of. Unvaccinated horses are also the ones which, when infected, can shed huge viral loads and spread the disease far and wide. Even if your horse doesn’t travel and mix with others they can still become infected through airborne spread and on tack and equipment coming into their environment.
Equine flu is like human flu and mutates from time to time meaning that some vaccines are less effective. In 2010 the OIE, which monitors viruses round the world, recommended that horse vaccines should include the newer strains of flu called the Florida clade 1 and 2 strains. Have a chat with your vet about vaccination if you’re not covered and if you are covered, it’s worth checking your horse has the most up-to-date vaccine type or they could still become ill. You can hear from three equine and disease experts in the videos on YouTube, Facebook and the Fit to Go website.