Equine Influenza Outbreaks: What horse owners need to know

08/02/2019

Find out what steps you need to take to protect your horse during outbreaks of equine influenza.

Horse muzzle

Equine Influenza is a highly contagious respiratory disease which affects all equines, referred to throughout as ‘horses’.  Although vaccinated horses will be less severely affected, recent outbreaks have occurred in both vaccinated and unvaccinated horses so it is important that all owners take steps to reduce the risk to their horse(s).

Read our equine flu FAQs

It is important that owners take a risk-based approach: the more you do, particularly if your horse is kept in a high-risk area, the more protection you can provide your horse. Here are some simple steps you can take to help safeguard your horse at this time:

  • Most importantly, limit exposure to other horses outside of their normal stable/field mates as much as you possibly can.
    o If you do have to travel your horse elsewhere then keep as much distance as possible from other horses and avoid any nose-to-nose contact.
    o Don’t let your horse graze or drink from water troughs when away from home.
     
  • Do not share equipment with other horses and/or horse owners. This is good practice at any time but particularly important when disease outbreaks occur.
     
  • Observe good hygiene practices, like washing your hands regularly and changing clothes and boots if you are looking after or visiting horses at different yards.
     
  • Ensure your yard or premises has an appropriate isolation plan in place and that (ideally) any isolation facilities are at least 50 metres away from any other horses.
     
  • Any new horses or horses returning from other premises should be isolated for at least one week, ideally two weeks. Bear in mind the incubation period for equine influenza is 1-3 days so 3 days’ isolation would be the absolute minimum we would recommend at this time. 
     
  • Keep vigilant for signs of disease and if you have cause for concern then isolate the horse immediately and call your vet. The most common clinical signs of equine influenza are:
    o A raised temperature (see our video below for how to take your horse’s temperature)
    o Nasal discharge
    o Coughing
    o Generally being ‘off-colour’, dull or listless
     
  • Other clinical signs can include:
    o Enlarged glands (under the lower jaw)
    o Swollen or sore eyes
    o Loss of appetite
    o Swelling in the lower legs
     
  • Check your horse’s vaccinations are up to date – your vet will be able to advise if you are unsure.
     
  • If your horse is vaccinated against equine influenza but it has been longer than six months since the last vaccination, speak to your vet about whether a booster could be a good precaution to take at this time.


Remember:

  • Equine influenza cannot be passed on to humans but the virus can be transported on clothing and footwear which is why observing good hygiene practice is essential.
     
  • Equine influenza is airborne – not solely passed through contact.


If you have any concerns at all, we recommend speaking to your vet immediately.

Read our equine flu FAQs

You can keep up to date on the latest developments with the equine influenza outbreak at www.equiflunet.org.uk

You can find further general guidance on infectious diseases and vaccination on the BEVA website

You can download our “Keep Your Horse Healthy” guide on simple steps to protect against infectious diseases from our Disease Prevention page.