As the global climate changes gradually, an equine disease that was once limited to sub-Saharan Africa could reach as far north as England in the near future, according to several European animal health networks.
African horse sickness (AHS) is a vector-transmitted viral disease with a mortality rate of 90% in horses. It is spread via the Culicoides species of biting midges. Scientists believe that because of climate change these midges are now able to survive in more northern European climates. And if AHS-infected horses or midges that have had exposure to infected horses are shipped to these areas, the virus could potentially spread.
A horse with the peracute form of horse sickness, in which froth fills the bronchial tract.
Recent European outbreaks of bluetongue, a disease affecting cattle and sheep via the same species of midge, have caused various European animal health organizations to create surveillance groups and lobby for government action to prevent the spread of the deadly diseases.
Medreonet, an animal disease surveillance and study network, was developed by the European Union in 2006. Coordinated by the Center of International Cooperation in Agricultural Research for Development (CIRAD), based in Marseille, France, Medreonet studies the three major diseases transmitted by Culicoides: bluetongue, African horse sickness, and epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD), which primarily affects deer. While all three of these illnesses have been documented in Africa for more than a century, bluetongue and EHD have begun to spread to other continents, including Europe, North America, and