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

 

 

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.

New SNELL skull cap standard

SNELL have developed a new skull cap standard – E2016 – which the BHA intends to add to the list of skull cap standards permitted in the rules.

Manufacture of the E2001 standard ceased in 2018 and this standard will remain on the permitted list for the time being while stocks are held in shops. Because the maximum lifetime of a skull cap is four to five years, the BHA envisages 2023/24 as a probable date to withdraw the E2001 standard from the rules.

If a hat with an E2001 label also has PAS 011 or the other current standard, it will remain acceptable even when SNELL E2001 has gone.

NTF responds to BHA announcement of a review of anti-doping rules

NEWS RELEASE

25 January 2018

National Trainers Federation responds to BHA announcement of a review of anti-doping rules

Yesterday evening the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) announced a full review of the sport’s equine anti-doping rules.

In the aftermath of the result in the Hughie Morrison case, the NTF called for a review of aspects of these regulations so we welcome the BHA’s announcement and look forward to playing a constructive role.

NTF Chief Executive Rupert Arnold commented, “We would like to take this opportunity to clarify and confirm that the NTF supports the principle of strict liability in equine anti-doping cases and we have not challenged it in recent cases. Our contention has been that the rules should not fetter the Disciplinary Panel in its duty to impose appropriate penalties in the light of the specific evidence in each case. This is what the Appeal Board confirmed in its decision on the BHA’s appeal of the Philip Hobbs case.”

Ends

The National Trainers Federation represents the interests of British licensed racehorse trainers.

For more information, please contact Rupert Arnold, NTF Chief Executive, on 01488 71794 or 07899 797010. E-mail: r.arnold@racehorsetrainers.org

For more information on the National Trainers Federation, please go to www.racehorsetrainers.org