THE Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D, has urged all players in the equine industry to respond to the increased risk that the on-going outbreak of Equine Herpes Virus-1 in horses in continental Europe poses to the equine population in Ireland and to double down on their biosecurity practices and measures.
The Minister stated: “I am aware that Irish horses have been competing across Europe in recent weeks. My officials met with representatives of Horse Sport Ireland and the Irish Equine Centre yesterday (March 2nd) to develop an appropriate risk mitigating response.
“Whilst this is not a notifiable disease, given the extent that the virus seems to have spread across Europe and the description of the clinical outcome, I strongly endorse the recommendation from that meeting that all those competing horses, on returning to Ireland follow the EHV-1 protocol for returning FEI horses, to isolate and carry out two PCR tests prior to completing quarantine.”
EHV is a herpes virus that is spread widely across the world including Ireland, where it usually manifests as a respiratory of reproductive disease and occasionally in a paralytic form. Given its ubiquitous nature and the availability of a vaccine, EHV is not a notifiable disease. The disease can be contained by isolation and testing. The Irish Equine Centre is an OIE reference laboratory for EHV and provides support to industry with their expert advice.
EHV is covered by industry codes of practice, in particular the prevention of EHV infection in breeding stock through good management and hygiene practices as well as regular vaccination. EHV has no zoonotic impacts.
The Minister concluded by recalling the critical importance of animal health in all animal based production systems and no more so than in equine sectors.
Independent Clare TD Michael McNamara tabled a parliamentary question to the Minister for Ag, saying: “To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will prioritise making Equine Herpes a notifiable disease in light an outbreak of EHV-1 in Valencia, the most serious outbreak in Europe for decades, the imminent possibility of the virus arriving in the State with horses being transported from Spain and, if so, when?”
The outbreak of Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1) occurred at the CES Valencia Spring Tour (ESP), with horses that were in attendance at the venue from at least 1st February 2021 potentially exposed to the virus.
Numerous horses at the venue subsequently displayed clinical symptoms of the virus, including neurological symptoms, and to-date four horses have died. A certain number of horses which left Valencia and travelled back to their home countries (France, Belgium, Denmark) have subsequently developed clinical signs of the virus as well.
Veterinary authorities are on-site in Valencia to deal with the outbreak, carry out the necessary testing and treatment of clinically-affected animals. Those horses requiring more intensive care are being managed in isolation units in tertiary level equine hospitals.
THE FEI has cancelled international events in 10 countries on the European mainland with immediate effect and until March 28th 2021.