The battle to control African horse sickness (AHS) will be spotlighted when World Horse Welfare hosts the seventh International Colloquium on Working Equids.

Held from July 1 to July 3 at Royal Holloway, University of London, delegates will hear how Ethiopian horses regularly suffer from malnutrition, wounds, ocular disorders, parasites, colic, lameness and other musculoskeletal problems.

Diseases affecting the equine population include epizootic lymphangitis, strangles, tetanus and ulcerative lymphangitis. The worst of them all, however, is AHS.

Multiple annual outbreaks of this disease are regularly reported and recent studies reveal the existence of new circulating strains of the AHS virus. In an outbreak report published by the World Organisation for Animal Health in 2008, a total of 15 outbreaks in south-west Ethiopia led to 2,185 equine deaths.

More recent studies conducted between 2009 and 2010 reported 10 outbreaks in central, eastern and western parts of the country, and studies in 2012 revealed the dominant variation of the AHS virus (AHSV-9) is still the most prevalent.

In response to the discovery of two new circulating strains of this disease, a new vaccine was produced by the National Veterinary Institute in Ethiopia. Since then, no horses that were vaccinated have been reported with AHS.

Nigatu Aklilu
, Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad (SPANA) Ethiopia director, said: “African horse sickness is prevalent in almost all areas where horses are owned in Ethiopia and its impact is devastating. The new vaccine produced by the National Veterinary Institute has proved highly successful. However, there are still many reported outbreaks and mortalities among unvaccinated horses.”

Andy Stringer, director of veterinary programmes at SPANA, added: “There are many reasons why horses are still not being vaccinated against AHS. Vaccination programmes are poorly planned, with poor organisational structures and logistical issues.

“There is also a lack of sufficient information about the disease. Among owners there is a lack of awareness about the benefits of vaccination, in addition to the problems surrounding the availability and accessibility of vaccines.”

For more information on the colloquium, click here.

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