Wednesday, 20 February, 2019

British racing cancelled because of flu

Horse racing There are no known consequences for humans exposed to equine flu
Celia Hoffman | 08 February, 2019, 14:42

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has announced that racing will not resume until next Wednesday at the earliest amid the equine flu outbreak.

While prevention is better in that instance, perhaps that same mantra should have been applied in terms of postponing the Irish racing calendar until the picture becomes a little clearer in Britain in a few days.

All four of Britain's scheduled race meets were cancelled on Thursday following confirmation of three cases, all from vaccinated horses in a yard reported to be that of Donald McCain.

Equine influenza can take up to three days of incubation before symptoms are present, so news of whether racing can return on Wednesday will not come until Monday, sparking widespread fears that the Cheltenham Festival next month is in danger.

While the McCain-trained runners who tested positive were not on track this week, the trainer had runners at Ayr and Ludlow on Wednesday and Wolverhampton on Monday.

"The full extent of potential exposure is unknown and we are working quickly to understand as much as we can to assist our decision making".

The sport's ruling body said it had identified yards that could have potentially been exposed today.

Ms Graham added: "I had a quick look through and we'd have lost at least 60 per cent of our horses".

"We felt clarity for the industry was the most important thing at this challenging time".

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"When new horses arrive at our yard we try as much as possible to keep them separate, but at this stage can not know if the infection came from recent arrivals or from horses returning from racing".

Asked whether the meeting could potentially be salvaged and re-staged, Thick added: "I think it's too early to say at this time".

Many in the horse racing industry are concerned about whether the Cheltenham Festival will go ahead.

In 2001 the meeting was cancelled due to the foot and mouth crisis, but with over a month until this year's meeting there is hope a similar situation can be avoided.

The British Horseracing Authority is confident its prompt action and "war-room" of vets can stop equine flu shutting the sport down for months.

Horses that have contracted equine flu can develop a high fever, coughing, nasal discharge and sometimes swelling of the lymph nodes.

A spokesperson said: "It is crucial for all horse and pony owners to be vigilant and follow recommended guidelines on how to detect and prevent the spread of this infectious disease". Tens of thousands of horses can be affected by one outbreak.

"They are then going to be driven to the Animal Health Trust at Newmarket, where they will be analysed".

Horses from the infected yard raced at Ayr and Ludlow, potentially exposing a significant number of horses from yards across the country and in Ireland. BHA procedures state that a racecourse can not race for at least four days following a deep clean having taken place.

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