THE CONTROL OF EQUINE INFLUENZA IN BRITISH HORSERACING
Equine Influenza is a highly contagious viral infectious disease of horses that can cause serious effects in susceptible animals; usually an episode of acute respiratory disease with clinical signs beginning abruptly and including high fever, nasal discharge, enlarged lymph glands, and coughing. Depression, reduced or absent appetite, and weakness are frequently observed. Clinical signs usually last around 3 days in uncomplicated cases.
Normally horses recover fully, but are likely to infect other horses. Less commonly heart damage may occur in horses with influenza especially when horses exercise whilst suffering from influenza infection.
The outbreak of equine influenza in Australia in 2007 illustrates the serious effect of the disease and the importance of its control on racing. Even outbreaks in countries where vaccination is required can have a serious negative effect on racing, such as in the UK in 2003.
There are a range of vaccines that if given to all susceptible horses in a population effectively prevent serious disease outbreaks. Susceptible horses include those that are unvaccinated, and those that are inadequately vaccinated. In addition, in the face of an outbreak, fully vaccinated horses may suffer a milder episode of equine influenza. With any population that is inadequately or improperly vaccinated, or not vaccinated at all, the magnitude of the potential dangers of disease increases. Even with a horse population where there is a high level of vaccination for equine influenza, such as UK thoroughbreds in training, there are significant potential dangers of an outbreak of equine influenza even when individual yards do not actively and fully comply with vaccination requirements, particularly when they might be the index (‘first’) yards in an outbreak.
Like horseracing authorities worldwide, the Authority requires a specific vaccination schedule against equine influenza to protect horses and the racing industry. It also requires that the vaccinations are given by a Veterinary Surgeon, and that the proper administration of such vaccinations is on each occasion certified by the Veterinary Surgeon.
VACCINATION DATE CALCULATOR
Save the link to the BHA Vaccination date calculator tool that can be used on computers and smartphones.
Technical: You must be connected to the internet by computer or phone to use this vaccination calculator tool. Web address to enter if required: http://www.britishhorseracing.com/mobile/vet/vaccs/
Disclaimer: For use as guidance only.
EQUINE VACCINATION Q&A
Q: What is Equine influenza (EI)?
EI is a highly infectious disease of horses, mules and donkeys occurring globally which is caused by strains of Influenza A virus. The disease which affects the upper and lower respiratory tract of equines has an almost 100 % infection rate in an unvaccinated horse population.
Q: How serious is it?
It is the most potentially damaging of the respiratory viruses that occur normally in UK equines (it is an ‘enzootic’ rather than ‘exotic’ disease) and disease symptoms in non–immune animals include high fever, coughing and nasal discharge. In some cases where secondary bacteria are involved, bronchitis and pneumonia can result. Unvaccinated animals may suffer permanent lung or heart damage and those that are badly infected may never fulfil or return to their true athletic potential.
Q: How can it be prevented?
By the immunisation of horses through vaccination. It is essential that much of the UK equine population is fully vaccinated and modern vaccines can provide significant protection against infection. It is a common misconception that only those horses competing in various disciplines require vaccination.
Q: Why does the BHA have a mandatory vaccination rule?
Influenza outbreaks in unvaccinated or poorly vaccinated populations can disrupt equine sporting activities for weeks or months and that is the reason why the Racing Industry introduced mandatory vaccination of racehorses and those using racecourse premises in 1981. Point to Pointing, Arab Racing and Pony racing have similar Rules.
Q: Do racing jurisdictions in other countries have such a rule?
Yes, though the rule can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction with regard to the time intervals required between vaccine administrations.
Q: What is the BHA Vaccination rule and where can it be found?
The Rule can be found in the BHA Rules of Racing Horse and Owner Manual E Rule 18. The specifics are as follows:
Q: What are the penalties for noncompliance?
- Vaccinations have to be administered by a Veterinary Surgeon with a vaccine recognised by the BHA to be against Equine Influenza.
- The horse must have received two primary vaccinations which are given not less than 21 days and no more than 92 days apart.
- If sufficient time has elapsed, the horse must also have received a booster which is given not less than 150 days and not more than 215 days after the second component of the primary vaccination.
- A further booster vaccination at intervals not more than a year apart is required thereafter.
- None of the vaccinations must have been given on day of a race in which the horse is entered or on any of the 6 days before the race.
These rise with the frequency and severity of the offence and can be found linked to the Rules Manual E Rule 18 in the Guide to Penalties. The horse may also not be able to race. Systematic evasion of the Rules is regarded extremely seriously by the Authority and has resulted in disqualification of several years.
Q: What do you do when vaccinations do not comply with the rule e.g. an annual booster has been missed ?
If a horse has, for example, not been given an annual booster or missed the booster given between 150-215 days after the second component of the primary vaccination course, the horse is required to undergo another full primary vaccination course (with subsequent boosters being given at the appropriate time intervals).
Q: Why does the rule have these specific requirements with regard to when vaccinations need to be administered?
Racing Jurisdictions such as the British Horseracing Authority seek advice and guidance from vaccine manufacturers and scientists (especially immunologists). Research shows that antibody levels against the disease rise dramatically following vaccination and slowly decline with time. If too much time passes before booster vaccination, horses become susceptible to the disease as immunity has waned. Vaccinating at the mandatory time intervals set by the BHA has been proven by scientists to provide maximum immunity for most horses.
Q: What are the names of the more commonly used EI vaccines?
There are many vaccines against Equine Influenza and the BHA and its Veterinary Officers keep an up to date list as new vaccines often appear on the market.
Q: What other equine vaccines are given which are NOT against EI?
Important vaccines indicated for all equines include against tetanus, Equine herpes vaccine etc.
Q: Must vaccinations be entered in Passport?
Yes, it is the law that they must and that this must be done by a Veterinary Surgeon. Racehorse passports have dedicated pages for veterinary surgeons to enter vaccination details against EI and pages for other equine vaccines. On occasion, vaccines against other diseases such as Equine herpes are seen to be entered in error on those pages that are dedicated to vaccines against EI. It is important for example to remember such vaccines are not for EI and should not be included when vaccination records against EI are checked for compliance with the BHA Vaccination against EI Rule.
Q: Are there any side-effects following EI vaccination?
The side effects from EI vaccination are minimal. The documented evidence for hundreds of thousands of vaccinations is that considerably less than one in a thousand have any adverse response.
Q: Why cannot horses race within 7 days of being vaccinated?
Following vaccination, the horse’s body needs time to respond to the vaccine by increasing the levels of antibody necessary to provide sufficient immunity against any possible exposure to the disease. Very rarely influenza disease can cause heart damage, so this interval is also a precaution against this event.
Q: Can un-vaccinated horses race?
No. Horses can only race once they have received the first two components of the primary vaccination course.
Q: Are altered dates acceptable?
No, altered dates with vaccination entries are not normally acceptable, they will incur a financial penalty unless they comply with strict conditions on how and why the alterations are made.
Q: How often are vaccinations records checked by Veterinary Officers?
The passport of a racehorse will always be examined by a Veterinary Officer whenever the horse is racing for the first time and whenever the horse is running for the first time with a new trainer. In addition, each passport is likely to be examined on an annual basis.
Q: Can horses race on the anniversary of their last annual booster without contravening the Rule?
Yes. Clearly the horse will need to be vaccinated after racing on that day because if not, it will mean the horse will require a re-start of a primary vaccination course owing to the booster being given after the deadline. It must not be vaccinated before racing as a 7 day interval is then required before it can race.
Q: What is meant by 'days apart?'
All vaccination intervals referred to above are to be calculated by ignoring the day of vaccination and counting the day of the race. Put another way, calculating the gaps between vaccinations ‘day 1’ for the purpose of counting is always the day after the horse’s last vaccination.
Q: What about leap years?
Under the Rules, whenever calculating the gaps between vaccinations ‘day 1’ for the purpose of counting is always the day after the horse’s last vaccination. The Rule deliberately uses the wording ‘not more than a year apart’, rather than a given number of days (365 days), so as vaccinations given a full year apart in a leap year also comply with the Rules.
Q: What if I am bringing my horse in from outside the EU?
Please see our specific requirements. If existing vaccinations records are available they may be transferred to an EU compliant passport, provided that the transferred information gives relevant details AND is certified by an identified Veterinarian.
Q: Some vaccine manufacturers or national animal health authorities require different vaccination intervals as compared to the Rules of Racing
The Authority, as with other racing jurisdictions, has to accommodate vaccinations from racehorses anywhere around the world, with a wide range of vaccines. Therefore most racing jurisdictions have wider intervals allowed for vaccinations than some individual brands of vaccines or particular national animal health authorities. However, with good planning it is usually possible to accommodate these particular vaccination requirements within the Rules of Racing.