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British Horse Racing rocked by equine flu outbreak as all fixtures are cancelled

Jonathan Vine in News 7 Feb 2019

The BHA announced in the early hours of the morning that all British Racing fixtures today have been cancelled, in a bid to stop try and stop the spread of an equine influenza virus which has been detected this week.

With the Cheltenham Festival looming large on the horizon, today’s developments have sent British Horse Racing into a state of panic. The news officially broke on Wednesday night, as the trainer from one yard – who remains unnamed – revealed some of his vaccinated horses were found to have equine flu and they had sent out a string of runners at Ayr and Ludlow earlier in the afternoon.

The BHA have acted quickly to try and resolve the issue, releasing this statement late last night.

"The British Horseracing Authority, with unanimous support of the BHA's industry veterinary committee, has taken the decision to cancel racing at all British racecourses on Thursday 7 February 2019,"

"This is following the BHA being informed this evening by the Animal Health Trust of three confirmed Equine Influenza positives from vaccinated horses in an active racing yard."

"Horses from the infected yard have raced today at Ayr and Ludlow, potentially exposing a significant number of horses from yards across the country and in Ireland."

"The fact that the cases have been identified in vaccinated horses presents a cause for significant concern over welfare and the potential spread of the disease and the action to cancel racing has been viewed as necessary in order to restrict, as far as possible, the risk of further spread of the disease."



Equine influenza may not be harmful to human, but it is extremely contagious and dangerous to horses, donkeys and mules alike. Symptoms include a high fever, nasal discharge, coughing and severe respiratory issues. Equine flu can also be transmitted through the air, so it’s highly likely those horses who came into close contact with the infected string yesterday will have picked up this virus.

While the BHA feel they have identified which yards may have been infected, Gordon Elliott and his team travelled over to Ayr to land a treble yesterday, so there’s a chance his horses may have picked up the virus and carried it back to Ireland.

In 2007, an outbreak of equine influenza was detected down in Australia. 50,000 horses were affected and 200 race meetings cancelled between the end of August and the beginning of December, bringing Australian racing to a complete stand-still. Today’s events also summon up memories of that terrible season in 2001, where British racing was torn apart by the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.

Let’s hope the BHA and its veterinary staff, along with all workers at the infected yards, can work together to quell the outbreak of this terrible disease. We pray this doesn’t turn into an epidemic.

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British Horse Racing rocked by equine flu outbreak as all fixtures are cancelled

The BHA announced in the early hours of the morning that all British Racing fixtures today have been cancelled, in a bid to stop try and stop the spread of an equine influenza virus which has been detected this week on Thursday 7th February.

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