FOUR horses have tragically died from Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1) in what the FEI are describing as “probably the most serious EHV-1 outbreak in Europe for decades”.
The outbreak of the virus at the show jumping tour in Valencia, Spain, has now resulted in the death of four horses over the weekend, while 84 on-venue horses are showing clinical signs and are being treated, and a further 11 horses are being treated in external clinics (nine in Valencia and two in Barcelona).
Worryingly, there are now confirmed related outbreaks of the aggressive neurological form strain of the virus in France, Belgium and Germany, and the FEI has now cancelled international events in 10 countries on the European mainland with immediate effect and until March 28th 2021.
This decision applies to all FEI disciplines, but in order to prevent huge numbers of horses simultaneously departing the jumping tours on the Iberian Peninsula, in Italy and Belgium that have been ongoing for a number of weeks, these specific Tours will be allowed to continue as individual “bubbles” on the condition that absolutely no new horses are allowed to enter the venues and no positive cases of EHV-1 are confirmed.
The FEI Veterinary department was first informed on Saturday, February 20th, that four horses that had left the CES Valencia Spring Tour venue on February 14th became sick shortly after returning to their home country (not revealed) and subsequently tested positive by PCR for the neurological form of EHV-1.
In an update today (Monday), an FEI release said: “As many of you will have seen on social media and other online media platforms, there are some very distressing images and footage of extremely sick horses in Valencia.
“The treatment of horses on venue has been vastly improved with additional veterinary support and medical supplies, with a total of 21 veterinarians now onsite. Over the weekend, the FEI ordered extra stabling so that healthy/recovered horses can be better separated from sick animals on venue to prevent further transmission. A total of 44 temporary stables, which are being transported from the South of France, are due to arrive onsite today and 22 boxes will also be supplied to the Valencia Equine Hospital in order to free up emergency treatment permanent stables.
“Additionally, the French National Federation and the FEI have coordinated a supply of inflatable support mats to assist recumbent horses to stand. Rescue nets and emergency slings are being sourced from Switzerland. The French and German National Federations are also supplying extra veterinarians.”
The FEI has blocked all horses that jumped in Valencia since February 1st on the FEI database until the required testing protocols have been fulfilled and national veterinary authorities have been informed about the outbreak and the returning horses, and any necessary isolation needed.
“While the priority remains the current outbreak and minimising the risk of further transmission, the FEI will be using data gathered from this outbreak to evaluate the effectiveness of the EHV1 vaccine, seeing which horses in the total group of 752 that participated in Valencia have been vaccinated, which had symptoms or were asymptomatic, and which horses have died.”
French federation suspends events
The French Equestrian Federation today suspended all equestrian events until March 28th. A statement said: “In order to control the development of an epidemic of Myeloencephalitis - EHV1 (rhinopneumonia) and after the observation of many cases on competitions in Europe, the FFE and the SHF have jointly decided to suspend from today until Sunday March 28th, 2021 included, all national and international equestrian competitions, equine gatherings and courses that they organize or place under their aegis.
“We will inform you regularly of the evolution of the epidemiological situation. We renew our call for vigilance and respect for best practices in order to resume all activities as quickly as possible in an already heavily disturbed context, at a time when only professional meetings and competitions were organised.”