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Manx Horse owners asked to be vigilant after flu outbreak

The full extent of exposure in the UK is unknown

'Be aware. Be responsible' says local vet

A call for vigilance has been issued to horse owners on the Isle of Man following an outbreak of equine flu on the UK mainland.

The British Horseracing Authority has cancelled all racing across the country, after three animals were found with the disease in an active yard.

It not yet known when racing will resume.

However, a local veterinary surgeon believes the infection should pose no challenge to Manx horses, if the community remains responsible.

Dr Raymond Cox has known about the spread for some time.

"Unfortunately the first case of flu was identified on the 2 January and since that, the number of cases has built up and spread across the country.

"It has now appeared in Cheshire and has appeared in a trainer's yard, which of course has the big impact on the racing industry."

What is Equine Flu?

Equine flu is a viral infection transmitted between horses.

It affects the animal's respiratory system and symptoms can include coughing, a nasal discharge, a high temperature and general lethargy.

Dr Cox is quick to stress that the flu is not a fatal disease.

"In many cases, it can be a very mild condition. But the symptoms will vary from being mild to more severe and that of course depends on the age of the animal and whether it has been vaccinated or not."

On Island, he says he hasn't diagnosed the flu for some years, though when he did it was from an imported animal.

But he still urges vigilance from the community of some 2,000 - 4,000 Manx horse owners.

Should any of these symptoms arise, you are asked to contact your veterinary surgeon.

'Show horses' and Biosecurity

Given the nature of the Isle of Man's geography and the current off-season for transporting horses to and from the UK mainland via the boat for competition, isolation from the spread of the disease could work in favour of the Island.

The majority of horses on the Isle of Man are known as 'show horses' for dressage and therefore not involved in racing.

The weather is also a factor, which Dr Cox says is 'not conducive' for the animal on the ferry and colder conditions will 'certainly help' in controlling the outbreak.

In the scenario of an infected animal reaching the Island however, he says the Island needs to be 'very aware' of the potential biosecurity threat.

"We need to think about isolating it for a period of at least 14 days after it arrives in a yard.

"That will mean no contact, nose to nose or sharing the same air space with any other horse.

"I'm pretty confident, that if everyone is responsible that this is not something that will challenge our Manx horses."

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