Equine Flu Awareness Month: Get 'Back On Track'

April is Equine Flu Awareness Month, so with this in mind, our Equine Practice team share some useful information and advice around equine flu - from understanding the symptoms, to what to do if your horse develops equine flu, and how you can help prevent this from happening. Also, how to get your vaccinations 'Back On Track' with our April promotion.

What is equine flu?

Equine flu is an infectious disease affecting the upper respiratory tract of horses. It is prevalent in the UK with frequent outbreaks recorded over the last few years.

A horse with flu needs complete rest and isolation, often putting them out of action for weeks. Crucially, outbreaks can affect competitions of all levels potentially resulting in the cancellation of events in order to control the spread of disease.

What are the signs my horse has equine flu?

Clinical signs usually appear within 1–5 days of exposure and can last for 3–6 weeks. They can include a high temperature, cough, nasal discharge, enlarged glands under the lower jaw, conjunctivitis, depression, loss of appetite and filling of the lower limbs.

If your horse shows any of these clinical signs consult the practice immediately, even if they have been vaccinated. This will allow appropriate tests to be carried out to determine the cause, and ensure that a suitable treatment plan is put in place. Remember to keep the horse isolated from others during this time as flu is highly infectious.

The equine flu virus evolves and changes constantly and it is important that its development is monitored in order to ensure vaccines protect against the circulating strains. Recent outbreaks in the UK are known to be of a strain called Florida Clade 2 (a sublineage of H3N8).1 Current guidelines from the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) recommend that vaccines should contain both Clade 1 and Clade 2 strains of the Florida sublineage.2

Your vet will be able to provide guidance on vaccines and the correct vaccination schedule for your horse.

Diagnosis and surveillance of equine flu

The Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB) Equine Influenza Surveillance Programme at the Animal Health Trust (AHT) provides a laboratory testing service to all vets allowing them to submit swabs taken from horses with suspected flu and confirm not only if flu is present but also which strain is responsible. 

How do we stay on top of flu?

  • Horse owner - responsible for keeping vaccinations up to date and monitoring horses for signs of equine flu virus
  • Equine vet - responsible for prescribing and administering equine flu vaccines to horses, swabbing all suspected cases of flu and submitting the swabs to the HBLB Equine Influenza Surveillance Programme at the AHT
  • AHT - responsible for testing all swabs received, confirming results to vets and monitoring virus strains in order to contribute to vaccination guidelines and vaccine development.

Hygiene & Biosecurity

Maintaining good hygiene and biosecurity practices on your yard can also help to prevent the spread of equine flu. This includes isolating new horses, disinfecting vehicles, and ensuring horses have their own haynets, feed bowls and tack etc.

Get your vaccinations 'Back On Track®'

To get you ‘Back On Track®’ we are pleased to offer a flu vaccine amnesty for all of our Equine Practice clients during the month of April.
Any horse older than 12 months of age, that has not been vaccinated against flu or that needs to re-start the vaccination course, can now have the second vaccine of the primary course for FREE. Book on a 'FREE Area Day' and you will get your visit for free too!
This offer is kindly sponsored by Merial Animal Health, who provide ProteqFlu, the only flu vaccine to provide protection against the latest known circulating strains of Equine Flu.
Please speak to our Equine Centre Reception on 0117 928 9620/9621 or email equinecentre@langfordvets.co.uk for full T&Cs.