Are We Prepared for African Horse Sickness?

One vet recommends taking these preparation steps to help reduce the impact of an outbreak.
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Are We Prepared for African Horse Sickness?
African horse sickness is a fatal viral disease spread by Culicoides midges—the same tiny, blood-sucking insects that cause sweet itch—that can affect horses, mules, and donkeys. | Photo: Courtesy Dr. Matthew Robin

Ebola virus made international headlines in 2014 as it spread throughout West Africa. People around the world became hungry for news and other resources to help educate themselves about this life-threatening infection.

But equestrians might want to learn about another African virus—one that’s killed countless horses on that continent and has not yet entered the United States or the United Kingdom, but is knocking on the door and, theoretically, could arrive at any time: African horse sickness (AHS).

At the 2014 British Equine Veterinary Association Congress, held Sept. 10-13 in Birmingham, U.K., Matthew Robin, BVSc, BSc, CertAVP(EM), MRCVS, described the risk of an AHS outbreak in Britain and steps to take should an outbreak occur. Robin is the Horserace Betting Levy Board-sponsored resident in equine medicine and infectious diseases at the University of Liverpool’s Philip Leverhulme Equine Hospital, in Wirral, U.K

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Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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