France and Germany end equine flu biosecurity requirements

France Galop and the Direktorium in Germany have both announced the termination of requirements introduced during the heightened threat of equine flu around Europe.

In France, the effective date is tomorrow (Wednesday 8th May.) In Germany the change is with immediate effect.

Last week we mentioned that the Irish Racehorse Regulatory Board had announced that from 1st January 2020, all horses racing in Ireland will be required to be vaccinated with an equine influenza vaccine containing a Clade 1 representative every six months. For the remainder of this year, horses must have been vaccinated on or after the 18th January 2019 with a vaccine containing a Clade 1 equine influenza representative.

The BHA has informed us that talks are taking place between the three Tripartite countries (Britain, France and Ireland) to see if there is any prospect of alignment on aspects of the Equine flu protocols across the three countries.

Industry Ownership Days launch at Pontefract in April

The Racehorse Owners Association will be hosting nine Industry Ownership Days up and down the UK during 2019. The days are intended to recognise existing members and to promote the thrill and accessibility of ownership to potential racehorse owners. The first is at Pontefract on Tuesday April 9.

The Industry Ownership Days in 2019 will see a number of additional benefits for members in attendance, including access to the ROA’s popular regional meetings (bookable in advance) which include lunch, as well as an opportunity to use the racecourse facility for the day; complimentary admission to all ROA members; access to members of the ROA team and a well-known racing industry figure who will be acting as host for the day. Mick Fitzgerald takes up this role at Pontefract, and at several other Industry Ownership Days throughout the year.

In addition to these benefits, every Industry Ownership Day will incorporate an ROA Owners Jackpot race on the card, which gives a £2,000 bonus to the winning horse if it’s majority-owned by ROA members. The first scheduled Owners Jackpot race will be the ROA Owners’ Jackpot Handicap (Class 5) 4yo+ rated 56-70 to be run over ONE MILE (race no. 11436). The ROA will also sponsor across the day’s card. Your support would therefore be very much appreciated with both runners and attendance.

Invitations for the regional meeting and lunch have been posted to owners who live locally, and the event is fully booked. Free racecourse entry for ROA members on the Industry Ownership Days is available through the ROA website www.roa.co.uk/events or by calling 0207 152 0200.

The full list of Industry Ownership Days for 2019 is as follows:

Month Racecourse Date Day Code
April Pontefract 09/04/2019 Tuesday F
May Newton Abbot 15/05/2019 Wednesday J
June Haydock Park 06/06/2019 Thursday F
July Musselburgh 03/07/2019 Wednesday F
August Ripon 06/08/2019 Tuesday (EVE) F
September Perth 09/09/2019 Monday J
October Nottingham 02/10/2019 Wednesday F
November Hereford 12/11/2018 Tuesday J
November Wetherby 27/11/2018 Wednesday J

Clive Hamblin Bvet med MRVCS, NTF Veterinary Adviser, explains Equine Influenza

To help communicate the seriousness of the recent cases of Equine Influenza, our Veterinary Adviser, Clive Hamblin, has written an explanation of the disease and its transmission. He concludes with advice on biosecurity and vaccination. Below his account, we have inserted a link to a scientific paper by Dr Richard Newton (of the Animal Health Trust) and colleagues, demonstrating the increased immunity provided by vaccinating against equine flu at six monthly intervals.

Clive Hamblin writes:

On the eve of our return to racing, I would like to stress that we are not out of the woods yet, although we can perhaps see the odd patch of green between the trunks. It has been a fraught time for all concerned with airtime and column inches normally given to our sport of British horseracing, having to be filled with opinions from many people, some more informed than others.

The simple fact is we have seen an escalating problem with a mutation of a variant of equine influenza, initially seen on the continent and also in Ireland and now Great Britain. It has been reported in a number of individual outbreaks, across the land, most of which have been in unvaccinated horses, then more alarmingly in vaccinated horses and then with entry into the racing population, as you well know.

There is a wide range of pathogens affecting the respiratory tract of the racehorse, seen at intervals, across the spectrum of yards, many of which are viral and many bacterial, but make no mistake, these are not Equine Influenza. This latest outbreak is!! No, it is not Ebola, but it has the potential to bring racing to a coughing and spluttering halt and not just for 6 days.

I would like to commend the BHA and its officers, the Animal Health Trust and my fellow members of its Veterinary Committee for their prompt and sensible action. This break has enabled us to take stock and properly assess the situation prior to making an evidence-based programme for the recommencement of the sport, maintaining the best health of the national racehorse herd and with the least risk of further spread of this potentially debilitating disease.

It is perhaps of value to know how the disease progresses. Virus particles from an infected horse are discharged in a spray of water droplets when breathing, coughing or snorting and are inhaled by our horse. The virus gains access to the cells of the airway and rapidly multiplies, this is the period we call “incubation”, 48 hrs to 4 days in duration. This is then followed by the period when clinical signs are apparent although they may be subdued in vaccinated horses, particularly if that has been recently carried out. This is the period when the horse may be “shedding” virus (can be up to 10 days) and is the optimum time for swabbing (inserting a long swab through the nose and collecting mucous from the throat region ready for transporting to the laboratory). The laboratory will carry out PCR on this sample where any viral RNA (this virus’s equivalent of DNA) is multiplied many, many times and can then be identified. The immune system of our horse now is in full flight combating the virus invasion, the horse stops shedding and is now no longer infective to the rest of the population. Damage done to the respiratory tract will gradually repair allowing a return to training in due course.

The equine influenza virus cannot live for long outside its infected host but can live for short periods in secretions in a stable, lorry or on a groom’s clothing, providing another source of infection. The main source though is a newly infected horse and more often than not, a horse newly introduced into the herd. That could be from overseas, the Sales or perhaps a breaking or livery yard or a new intake horse from shared transport.

In the light of this new influenza outbreak we have two major weapons in our armoury, namely vaccination and biosecurity. There are quite a number of scientific papers supporting the evidence that vaccinating at 6 month intervals gives superior protection against equine influenza virus and hence the BHAs approach to resuming racing if the participants have been so protected. This was never going to please every owner and trainer, but the advice of world experts would be ignored at our peril.

With regard to biosecurity, the watchword is all new inmates should have a period in a quarantine unit, preferably some distance from the training yard. For those looking for a cracking good read, I refer you to the NTF Code of Practice for Infectious Diseases of Racehorses in Training booklet (or via the NTF website, https://www.racehorsetrainers.org/publications/pdfs/cop.pdf . Please, please pay particular attention to the sections on biosecurity……pages 3-11 and try and orchestrate the best arrangements you can.

Clive Hamblin Bvet med MRVCS

12th February 2019

Dr Richard Newton et al paper on

Optimising vaccination strategies in equine influenza.”

 

and the layman’s explanation on the BHA website

 

 

Declarations process for Thursday 14 Feb & important info re overnight/early racecourse arrivals

Please see the BHA notices below in relation to:

– The declarations process for fixtures on Thursday 14 February.

– Requirements in relation to horses requiring overnight racecourse stabling, or which will arrive at the racecourse more than 4 hours prior to the first race. These requirements will apply to fixtures on Thursday 14 February and will continue until further notice.

DECLARATIONS PROCESS FOR RACES ON THURSDAY 14 FEBRUARY

Declarations for  races scheduled for Thursday 14 February should be made by 10am on Wednesday 13 February. Please be aware that we are following the same process and timetable as was used on Tuesday 12 February, so therefore we will retain the adaptations made in relation to  declarations for Thursday:

  • The trial of transparent declarations in place for Flat races will be suspended for Thursday’s fixture but the number of declarations in each race can still be viewed on NRAS.
  • No races to be staged on Thursday 14 February will be re-offered.
  • List of provisional declarations will not be posted and the official release of declarations for Thursday’s racing is expected to be at 1.30pm.
  • Jockey bookings for Thursday will be accepted until 2.15pm on Wednesday 14 February

Once we have been able to complete the analysis and processing of test samples we will return to normal racing administration activity.

IMPORTANT NOTE RE OVERNIGHTERS/EARLY ARRIVALS AT FIXTURES FROM THURSDAY 14 FEBRUARY AND BEYOND

Trainers declaring horses for any races on Thursday 14 February and for all races after that date and until further notice, should be advised of the following requirements for “overnighters” (horses arriving at the racecourse on the day(s) prior to raceday and which require overnight racecourse stabling accommodation), or any horses arriving more than 4 hours prior to the FIRST race.

In line with the new equine influenza requirements, we need to check the vaccination status of all horses before they can be unloaded. For overnighters and early arrivals, the process is slightly different. If you have a horse going to the racecourse overnight or arriving more than 4 hours before the first race, you must first email a copy of the following documents to: overnighters@britishhorseracing.com

The trainer of, or Responsible Person for, overnighters and early arrivals must submit this documentation prior to arrival. It needs to be checked in advance, as horses cannot be unloaded or permitted entry to the stables until this process has been completed.

NTF comment on the resumption of racing on Wednesday

It is great that racing – both flat and jump – resumes today.

From the outset, the NTF supported the BHA’s strict containment strategy once cases of equine influenza were reported. Our policy was shaped by the unanimous opinion of trainers on the NTF Council that to safeguard the race programme in the longer term, it was vital in the short term to stop the circulation of horses around the country to race meetings until the extent of the outbreak and consequent disease risk could be assessed.

Trainers are competitive creatures – they want to be racing. We encouraged the BHA to plan ahead for the moment when the BHA’s Veterinary Committee (which includes the NTF’s Veterinary Adviser Clive Hamblin) was satisfied the risk to the horse population was acceptable so racing could begin again.

Well done to the BHA, the Veterinary Committee and vets up and down the country for achieving so much in such a short space of time. Trainers – hats off to you. From day to day, you deal with multiple responsibilities and challenges but somehow maintain resilience. Coping with the racing shutdown and testing requirements has added enormous stress to an already pressurised training operation. Some of you have questioned the industry disease containment policy – we accept that will always happen when events present the sport with difficult decisions.

Less welcome are the control measures agreed by the Veterinary Committee. These have produced different outcomes for different trainers and owners; some will be able to race, some won’t for at least a few more days. The NTF was not in favour of a requirement for runners to have had a flu vacc within the last six months. Some horses react poorly to the vaccine so unplanned vaccinating mid-season is undesirable, especially for Cheltenham bound horses so close to the big event. The control measure will also deprive some yard and not others from participating in the rescheduled trial races and other essential prep or qualifying runs. We tried yesterday morning to persuade the BHA to use some flexibility and though they wouldn’t budge, they acted quickly to refund entry fees and put on alternative races.

We are assured the scientific case for a recent flu vaccination is strong so we have had to accept that decision as a condition of the most desirable outcome for all – the resumption of racing today.

 

Racing to resume on Wednesday 13 February

11/02/2019 @ 23:15:00

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) tonight announced a risk-managed return to racing will take place from Wednesday this week.

After consultation with its veterinary committee, and based on the latest tests conducted by the Animal Health Trust, the BHA’s Chief Regulatory Officer, Brant Dunshea, tonight confirmed that racing could resume, but only with strict biosecurity controls in place.

This decision to return racing in a controlled, risk-managed manner was unanimously supported by the industry veterinary committee.

Brant Dunshea said:

“Our approach since hearing about the first positive results last Wednesday has been based on accumulating as much information as we could as quickly as possible so we could properly understand the risks of this virulent strain of flu spreading to more horses. That would be harmful to them and damaging to any trainers’ yards that became infected.

“It has also been our intention to ensure that we avoid an issue that could result in a long-term disruption to racing with the risk of many of our major events being unduly impacted.

“After analysis of thousands of samples, and no further positive tests on Monday, we still only have two confirmed sites of infection. We have put robust containment measures in place around both.

“From the testing and analysis conducted the disease appears to be contained at present. The BHA veterinary committee believe that the swift controls on movement that were put in place have clearly helped to restrict the spread of this virus.

“There have been significant logistical issues associated with testing and processing so many tests in such a short space of time. Fortunately, owing to the tireless efforts of the Animal Health Trust, trainers and their local vets, and BHA staff, the vast majority of yards which had been placed on hold will be in a position to resume racing.

“Clearly, there is some risk associated with returning to racing. This risk has been assessed and, based on the evidence – and ensuring biosecurity measures are in place – the level of risk is viewed as acceptable.”

As such the BHA has confirmed that two scheduled Jump fixtures will go ahead at Musselburgh and Plumpton on Wednesday 13 February, alongside the All Weather fixtures at Southwell and Kempton.

Return to racing

As part of the controlled return, the BHA has developed a risk framework which allows us to categorise individual trainers by the level of risk they have been exposed to. The ability of runners to return to racing from those yards will depend on the risk categories the yards are placed in.

We are finalising overnight which category individual trainers will currently be placed in. The BHA will contact trainers tomorrow morning to inform them of their category and eligibility to run.

Declarations

Trainers who hold entries for Wednesday are advised to declare at 10am on Tuesday. Confirmed declarations will not be issued to the media, betting organisations and data customers until 1:30pm. In this period the BHA will review all declarations to ensure none have been declared which do not meet the risk criteria.

Please note declarations for Thursday’s Flat All Weather meetings will now be at the 24 hour stage.

Biosecurity measures

In addition to the risk factors outlined above, and as an interim measure, the BHA has ordered that no entries or declarations will be accepted from horses that have not been vaccinated [for equine influenza] in the previous six months. Trainers are advised to check current vaccination records before declaring tomorrow morning. In addition, all trainers will be required to provide a health declaration upon arrival at a racecourse.

The BHA’s Director of Equine Health and Welfare, David Sykes said:

“The BHA and the veterinary committee agree that, on balance, the level of risk is acceptable for a return to racing.

“We have developed a risk model, which the veterinary committee support, in order to assist the return to racing.

“We will observe closely those horses who are taken to the racecourse and will intervene as a precaution to prevent a horse running or accessing a racecourse if we believe it might put other horses at risk of infection.

“The veterinary committee are of the view that an unprecedented amount of this disease has been identified in Europe. This is not a typical endemic period and it was essential that precautions be taken to protect the horse population.”

Rescheduling of races

In preparation for a return to Racing the BHA’s Racing department has identified a number of key Jump races which should be rescheduled. The identified races are based on their place in the Pattern and races which provided essential opportunities.

The following races have been rescheduled:
Races rescheduled
Full race conditions will be circulated tomorrow and a further review will take place of any gaps that have been caused at all levels of the race programme with a view to adding in additional race or fixtures as required.

A similar exercise will also commence for Flat races in the coming days.

About the Veterinary Committee       

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA)’s Veterinary Committee advises on all veterinary matters affecting racing and the health and welfare of racehorses. It contains representatives of the BHA, Association of Racecourse Veterinary Surgeons (ARVS), British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA), National Trainers Federation (NTF), Racehorse Owners Association (ROA), Animal Health Trust (AHT), Thoroughbred Breeders Association (TBA), Racecourse Association (RCA) and Independent expertise.

BHA update regarding equine influenza case

10/02/2019 @16:35:00

Testing at licensed yards across the country is ongoing, with a view to quickly assessing and containing the potential spread of the highly contagious equine influenza virus which is affecting vaccinated horses.

The BHA is continuing to build a picture of the potential spread of the disease by testing as many horses as possible from potentially exposed yards. The data collected will help to build an evidence base which will allow a decision to be made on Monday as to whether racing can return on Wednesday 13 February.

Surveillance update

The Animal Health Trust (AHT) has now received several thousands of samples and is working through the process of testing those samples. The latest update that has been provided to the BHA confirms that no further positive cases have been identified from the testing carried out yesterday. Owing to the volume of testing being carried out the AHT have not been able to provide a precise figure as to the number of tests carried out, but they are of the view that the numbers processed will be roughly equivalent to the 720 which were processed the previous day.

Amongst the samples that have been tested are those of the remaining 27 horses from the yard of Rebecca Menzies. All horses in this yard have now tested negative, though the yard will remain under close surveillance and further testing will be carried out.

Analysis remains ongoing with more swabs being returned all the time, and yesterday 5,000 extra swabs were distributed to trainers to assist with the logistical challenges of testing this many horses.

The AHT have also publicly confirmed that a non-thoroughbred, unvaccinated horse has sadly had to be humanely euthanized after having contracted the virus. This shows the threat posed by the disease in unvaccinated horses and the importance of biosecurity procedures and movement restrictions to contain the possible spread of the disease.

Equine influenza should not be confused with or compared to the common ‘bug’ that might impact some yards from time to time. It is the most potentially damaging of the respiratory viruses that occur in UK equines, and it can be particularly serious for younger horses, which is of particular concern with the breeding season about to start. Trainers are required under the rules to notify the BHA should a case of equine influenza be identified or suspected in their yard.

Return to racing

A pragmatic and evidence-led approach is being adopted in order to enable the BHA to make decisions on Monday as to whether racing can return on Wednesday 13 February. A prioritisation plan for testing is being adopted, which is based on the proximity of horses to a positive test, or to a yard returning a positive test. Swabs will continue to be collected and tested from other horses, but some are being fast tracked. Separately, a specific plan is being formed as to what the clearance process will be for individual yards to return to racing.

This process will remain ongoing through today and tomorrow with a view to sufficient evidence being gathered to make a decision on Monday evening as to whether racing can return on Wednesday. We appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding that as much evidence as possible must be gathered prior to making a decision as to when racing can safely return.

Should racing be given the go ahead to return on Wednesday then declarations for all races would take place on Tuesday.

David Sykes, Director of Equine Health and Welfare for the BHA, said:

“The data is encouraging and provides a further indication that the precautionary safety measures have helped to contain the spread of disease. However, the picture is still developing and it remains the case that we will make an evidence-based decision about the situation on Monday.

“It remains paramount that, for the sake of our horse population, we do not take any unnecessary risks. This is not a common cold, it is a highly contagious and potentially serious disease.

“The prioritisation exercise with regards to testing will help deliver a detailed picture of the spread of infection. Targeted testing, alongside the wide survey of data we have already gathered, will help provide a clear picture as to the scale of the spread of the disease. Any decision will include guidance and input from veterinary experts, including the industry’s veterinary committee.

“We are also working through the process that will be followed in order to give specific yards the all clear to resume racing. This will balance the clear need for yards to resume business as soon as possible with ensuring that we do not put horses at the risk of unnecessary harm. We are liaising with the NTF and trainers on this process.”

Testing costs

As confirmed last night, the BHA and Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB) have agreed to pay a contribution to owners or trainers for the costs incurred where the BHA has required samples to be taken, including the cost of the swabs and the veterinary fees involved. We are working on the exact details with the NTF and HBLB and will confirm the reimbursement policy and process as soon as possible, but it will be based on a fixed fee per horse sampled.

The BHA is extremely grateful to HBLB for their important support and contribution.