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EQUINE FLU: Your questions answered
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EQUINE FLU: Your questions answered
on 13 February 2019
The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board has issued the following answers to some frequently asked questions about equine influenza and the new vaccination measures for thoroughbred racehorses

1. What vaccines contain the necessary viral strain to deal with the current outbreak?

Vaccinations currently licensed in Ireland which contain Florida Clade 1 are:

ProteqFlu E or TE – Merial

Equilis Prequenza TE – MSD Animal Health

2. If my horse has received its first two vaccinations but isn’t due the third booster of the primary course yet, and I vaccinate it now will it change the vaccination schedule?

The mandatory emergency booster vaccination required by the IHRB does not impact your vaccination schedule. The horse can either receive its third vaccination in due course in accordance with the original vaccination schedule, or use the mandatory booster vaccination as the initial vaccination in a renewed schedule, with the second vaccination booster due between 21 and 92 days later. If this option is chosen the horse can continue to run in advance of getting the second vaccination booster in these extraordinary circumstances.

3. What is the rationale behind the eight weeks?

Scientific evidence indicates that immunity following vaccination peaks and drops off within four weeks with reduced protection at 12 weeks. Under normal circumstances the mandatory vaccination program in place in Ireland provides adequate immunity for circulating viral challenge, but in the current extraordinary circumstances an extra immunity boost is needed. The eight weeks’ timeframe is a practical compromise based on expert advice from the Irish Equine Centre, an internationally-recognised (OIE) Reference Laboratory for Equine influenza.

4. I vaccinated my horse at Christmas why do I need to do it again so soon?

As explained above, an eight-week interval is a practical response to boost the horses’ immunity in the face of an outbreak to boost the overall herd immunity.

5. What is the benefit of vaccinating now?

We are the middle of an Equine influenza outbreak – horses exposed to the virus need an immunity boost to avoid infection in the first place and/or recover faster.

6. If I vaccinate my horse will it interrupt my training programme?

Modern vaccines do not contain live strains and do not usually cause a problem in the horse. The six-day stand down is to allow the horse rest after the vaccination however the horse can usually continue its training after a few days.

7. Why are the IHRB stopping scoping on racedays?

Equine influenza is an extremely contagious viral disease. It can be transmitted by air but also by objects including “scopes”. At this time the risk of transmission must be minimised and therefore any activity which may increase risk and is not strictly necessary must be temporarily suspended in the interests of safeguarding the horses and the industry as a whole.

8. Why are the IHRB not suspending racing?

We believe that with the enhanced measures as communicated on Friday, 8th February the industry can protect its horses sufficiently to avoid this being required.

9. If I vaccinate a horse in my care this week to allow the horse race in Ireland after February 18th, will I have to vaccinate again in another eight weeks?

Hopefully not. The IHRB hopes that the measures taken now will ensure that your horse can continue to race without any further emergency mandatory booster vaccination being required. We will be reviewing the situation on an ongoing basis and any decision will be taken following consultation with the IEC and Veterinary Committee of IHRB.

10. Will all horses that race from now on have to be vaccinated with a vaccine containing Clade 1?

For the moment – yes. However, as outlined above, we will be reviewing the situation on an ongoing basis and will issue further updates as they become available.

11. Will the IHRB require that horses coming to run from overseas are vaccinated with a vaccine containing Clade 1?

Yes – as long as the requirement remains in place for Irish-trained horses.

12. How do I know that the vaccination has worked and that everyone is doing it?

Vaccination records will continue to be checked as now. The IHRB may conduct testing to support this and any trainer found in breach of the rule may be referred to the Referrals Committee.

13. Are there adequate supplies of vaccine?

We believe so. The IHRB are in regular contact with both companies supplying the vaccines. They have increased their supply to wholesalers both in light of the need from racing and breeding.

14. I intend to run my horse at one of the following race meetings or point-to-points. What is the date range during which my horse must have received its most recent vaccination containing the Clade 1 virus, to ensure that the horse is qualified to run on the day?

Racemeeting Date Range that most recent vacc must fall into

Punchestown Feb 20th: December 26th- February 13th

Thurles Feb 21st: December 27th– February 14th

Dundalk Feb 22nd: December 28th– February 15th

Fairyhouse Feb 23rd: December 29th– February 16th

Naas Feb 24th: December 30th- February 17th

Point to Point Date Range that most recent vacc must fall into

Tynan and Armagh (F) Feb 23rd: December 29th– February 16th

Duhallow (F) Feb 24th: December 30th- February 17th

Bray (H) Feb 24th: December 30th- February 17th

15. Can I run overseas if I adhere to the guidance set out above?

If you wish to run a horse overseas, you should check what is required with the overseas authority well in advance of your race so as to give yourself time to comply with any requirements that may be in place.

16. What happens next?

The situation will be monitored and the IHRB will make a decision in two weeks on whether or not the emergency mandatory booster vaccination requirement is to be continued. Any changes will be communicated to you.

Testing for equine influenza is provided free of charge by the Irish Equine Centre (IEC) – it is recommended that any trainer with any concerns should avail of this in order to establish their horses’ disease status. As with any contagious infectious disease outbreak, rapid diagnosis and effective management is key to recovery and minimising spread of disease.

Trainers and handlers who have concerns or questions in relation to equine influenza should contact:

Irish Equine Centre on +353 (0)45 866266

Email: iec@irishequinecentre.ie

Dr Lynn Hillyer, Chief Veterinary Officer IHRB on +353 87 1925 366

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