Equine Flu Shock For UK Racing

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Horse racing has been canceled in Britain until Wednesday Feb. 13.at the earliest, due to an equine flu outbreak.

The decision by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) comes after three vaccinated horses in an active yard tested positive for the disease.

Newbury's "Super Saturday" meeting - where last year's Cheltenham Gold Cup victor Native River was due to have a final race before his title defence - is among the casualties, although there are hopes some of the big races may be rescheduled for a later date.

Equine influenza is endemic in Britain's horse population, but vaccination against the disease is mandatory for thoroughbreds and most other breeds that are used competitively, such as eventers. The incubation period is usually days but recovery can take weeks, or even months.

Given our geographical closeness, perhaps Irish authorities should have followed suit, even if a few racing meetings were lost as a result.

In 2007 there was an outbreak of equine flu in New South Wales in Australia.

A decision on whether racing can resume next Wednesday will be made by the BHA on Monday.

According to the BHA, the disease may be serious in unvaccinated horses, although symptoms in vaccinated horses are usually mild and transient.

Other horses were potentially infected when McCain's stable sent horses to meetings in Ayr and Ludlow on Thursday, which could have exposed a significant number of other runners.

This includes several from stables in Ireland, including five from the yard of Gordon Elliott, one of Ireland's most successful trainers.

"It takes about three days or so for a horse to start to display symptoms of influenza, so if a horse has shared air space with an infected horse it can take a bit of time to work out if they themselves are now infected. We recommend that any trainer who has concerns about the health status of any of their horses should contact their veterinarian". "This may then allow declarations to take place on Tuesday in time for racing on Wednesday".

"Over the last two months, all potential runners have been scoped and their blood checked within 36 hours of their races to ensure that only healthy horses compete for the yard".

"They stop being contagious once they have recovered, and like with most other species the influenza plays itself out in about three weeks although seriously affected horses may take longer to recover or be left with permanent damage to their lungs".

"This precautionary approach is meant to ensure we put the health of the horse population and control of the virus first, and avoid any unnecessary risk that might come from returning to racing too quickly".

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