A research project led by a student at the University of Nottingham, in the United Kingdom, is aiming to uncover why some horse owners choose not to vaccinate their animals against equine influenza.

Around 85% of all horses in the U.K. need to be vaccinated to protect the national herd stock. However, evidence from recent outbreaks suggest that some owners are failing to adequately protect their pets.

Will Bambra, an undergraduate student in the University’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, is leading a research project as part of his degree course which is aimed at improving our understanding of why some owners decide against vaccination.

He is asking owners to anonymously complete a short online survey featuring a number of questions exploring the factors that would have a bearing on their decision to vaccinate their animals as well as assessing their understanding of the impact of equine flu.

“In the UK, equine flu is quite a severe disease and when outbreaks do occur they can have a serious impact on horse communities,” Bambra said. “If vaccination rates fall below the 85% mark, it increases the chances of widespread infection.”

Horse flu is caused by various strains of the influenza flu, similar to the flu virus that affects people. As with the human version, equine flu is very contagious. It causes a fever lasting up to ten days; a harsh, dry cough that can persist for several weeks; clear or white discharge from the nose; enlarged lymph nodes; depression; and loss of appetite.

Horses affected by equine flu should be given complete rest and ideally not strenuously exercised unt