Thailand Hit by African Horse Sickness

Dozens to as many as 100 reported dead

Definitively identified by Thai veterinarians on March 27, this represents the first outbreak of AHS outside the African continent in more than 30 years.

Posted by Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA, THE HORSE magazine online reports:

An outbreak of African Horse Sickness (AHS) in Thailand has caused at least 42 horse deaths out of 62 cases as of March 30, according to Thailand Equestrian Federation (TEF) reports. In response, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) has suspended the country’s AHS-free zone status.

Definitively identified by Thai veterinarians on March 27, this represents the first reported outbreak of AHS outside the African continent and Yemen in more than 30 years. In the late 1980s, the disease spread to Spain and Portugal, presumably via a herd of zebras imported into a Spanish zoo, and led to more than 3,000 deaths of primarily riding horses.

A fatal viral disease spread by various vectors including Culicoides–tiny, blood-sucking midges—and certain mosquitoes, AHS affects horses, mules, and donkeys and potentially dogs and camels. Horses are most susceptible to AHS, with a 75-90% mortality rate, said Polly Roy, MSc, PhD, FMedSci, professor of virology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, where her team is developing vaccines based on reverse genetics and proteins.

AHS’s sudden appearance in a country 4,000 miles across the Indian Ocean from the disease’s native endemic zone is “of great concern,” said Monique Eloit, DVM, director general of the OIE.

“(This) impacts the health and welfare of equine populations as well as international trade (or movements of horses for competition),” Eloit told The Horse. “The OIE Regional and Sub Regional Representations, in Tokyo and Bangkok respectively, are in close contact with the Veterinary Services of Thailand and neighboring countries to provide technical assistance, in the current context of spread of AHS outside its endemic areas in Africa. Regular updates on the situation from Thailand are expected to be communicated.” Continue reading »

The Thaiger reports that the dead horses are racehorses. The Bangkok Post reports that “dozens of horses have died” of African sickness, while the Strait Times published 9 hours ago states “over 100 horses killed”.

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