Equine Influenza Cases on the Rise, Even in Vaccinated Horses

Adult horses are at greatest risk of infection in late winter and early spring.
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Equine Influenza Cases on the Rise, Even in Vaccinated Horses
Vaala said owners and veterinarians should be aware that EIV prevalence is on the rise, with adult horses at greatest risk in late winter and early spring. | Photo: The Horse Staff

Equine influenza virus (EIV) cases have increased over the past decade, with some years worse than others. Plus, the demographics of affected horses are changing, and more horses vaccinated against the disease are becoming infected.

To gain a better understanding of EIV’s current prevalence and patterns, Wendy Vaala, VMD, Dipl. ACVIM, director of life-cycle management equine and companion animal at Merck Animal Health, and a team of researchers from Merck and the University of California, Davis, looked at EIV cases identified through Merck’s voluntary biosurveillance study over 11 years. She presented their findings at the 2019 Annual American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 7-11 in Denver, Colorado.

Vaala’s team reviewed data from 239 clinics in 38 states from March 2008 to February 2019. The study included 7,809 horses showing respiratory signs and fever. Upon testing their nasal swabs using qPCR, which looks for DNA, 9.2% (718 horses) tested positive for EIV, with the number of cases per year increasing throughout the study period

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Alexandra Beckstett, a native of Houston, Texas, is a lifelong horse owner who has shown successfully on the national hunter/jumper circuit and dabbled in hunter breeding. After graduating from Duke University, she joined Blood-Horse Publications as assistant editor of its book division, Eclipse Press, before joining The Horse. She was the managing editor of The Horse for nearly 14 years and is now editorial director of EquiManagement and My New Horse, sister publications of The Horse.

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