Paper by University of Nottingham academics recommends more strategic use of vaccines as well as new treatments containing currently circulating strains of virus.

A new paper published in the Equine Veterinary Journal (EVJ) has found vaccines for equine influenza need to be used strategically and contain currently circulating strains if they are to effectively combat the virus.

Equine 'flu, while rarely fatal, is highly contagious and can seriously disrupt training and competition schedules, resulting in revenue losses for the equine industry.In the research – which used mathematical modelling to understand the virus – Janet Daly, a virologist from the University of Nottingham’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, found protection afforded by equine ‘flu vaccines is not as straightforward as first thought because the virus has an ability to mutate, making older vaccines less effective.

Also, while vaccination reduces the occurrence and limits the extent of outbreaks, said Dr Daly, vaccines could be administered more strategically and should contain currently circulating strains of virus. None of the vaccines on sale in the UK contain the most recently recommended strains, she said, and only one vaccine in the US does.

Dr Daly said: “This study will help further our understanding of how to better protect horses against the effects of equine influenza. Mathematical modellers have to make some assumptions in developing models, but models are informed by and tested against real data. As a virologist, I find the questions about the data they need to generate their models challenge me to think differently about the disease.”
The paper – called ‘What can mathematical models bring to the control of equine influenza?’ – collates the findings from numerous studies over the past 10 years in which mathematical models were used to project how influenza outbreaks are likely to progress in different circumstances. It also aims to illustrate how this technique could be used to help inform decisions on prevention and outbreak management.

To read the paper, visit the EVJ website.

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