African Horse Sickness: OIE Webcast Offers Sobering Reality

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) hosted a global webcast as humans—facing a health crisis of their own due to COVID-19—try to protect horses and prevent the spread of AHS during the disease’s current outbreak in Thailand.
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African Horse Sickness: OIE Webcast Offers Sobering Reality
Containing the outbreak is critical not only for Thailand but also elsewhere in Asia. AHS can spread in midge migration up to about 150 km (about 93 miles) across land or 700 km (about 435 miles) across water. | Photo: iStock
Insecticides. Insect repellants. Quarantines. Double doorways. Nets across every barn window and silicone stuffed into every nook and cranny to stop midges and mosquitoes from carrying African horse sickness (AHS) from one equid to another. And a freshly arrived live-attenuated vaccine that might or might not start a chain of viral spread of its own.

All this, in a context of social distancing, closed businesses, and anxiety as horse owners and stable managers face the human COVID-19 pandemic.

Such is the grim reality facing horse owners across Thailand, particularly in the affected provinces where AHS has been killing horses at a rate of 94% in those showing clinical signs. Thai authorities have reported that 192 horses in six provinces have died as of last week, an increase of nearly 40 from the week before. The outbreak apparently began February 24 with the death of a racehorse in the Pak Chong district, but 42 horses had died before scientists confirmed a diagnosis of AHS in the previously AHS-free country one month later.

With no effective treatment in existence, the only strategy authorities can implement is one of prevention, said leading global experts during a webinar dedicated to Thailand’s AHS outbreak hosted April 10 by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). Limited stocks of vaccines arrived from South Africa on April 13, with a priority given to horses in the most affected zones

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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