The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) is urging local horse owners to remain alert to the ongoing threat of Equine Viral Arteritis (EVA).
The call comes after four cases of EVA have been confirmed on premises in Dorset and Devon since April.
EVA is a notifiable viral disease that affects horses, mules and donkeys. It is notifiable in all stallions, and in mares that have been mated or inseminated within 14 days. The disease is common in warm blood horses on the continent.
A vaccine is available, and routine vaccination against EVA is recommended for stallions and teasers by the Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB) Codes of Practice for equine breeding: http://codes.hblb.org.uk.
The four cases of EVA that have been confirmed in England were found in non-thoroughbred stallions on two premises. There are close epidemiological links between these two premises.
Restrictions on breeding have been put in place on the animals to limit the risk of the disease spreading and further investigations are ongoing. The animals affected are not racehorses and there is no indication that upcoming racing events will be affected.
Initial investigations have indicated that there are no links to Northern Ireland, however the DAERA advises that anyone who suspects that their animals are showing signs of the disease should immediately report it to their nearest DAERA Direct Office or to the DAERA helpline on 0300 200 7840.
Signs of EVA can include:
abortions (failed pregnancies in mares)
conjunctivitis (bloody tissue around the eye known as ‘pink eye’)
swelling of scrotum and prepuce or udder, also around eyes and lower legs
fever and runny nose
lethargy and stiff movement
Many infected horses will show no clinical signs. In rare cases the disease can cause severe clinical signs or death in young foals.
EVA is spread through mating, artificial insemination, contact with aborted foetuses, fomites and also on the breath of infected animals.
EVA is not notifiable in all EU countries (it is in the UK and ROI but not in some endemic mainland European countries). Most countries require pre-export testing of stallions before they can be imported.
Mares recover quickly from infection, nevertheless they are infectious for up to two weeks post infection and can spread the pathogen to their foals through milk; to other susceptible animals through aerosol or nose to nose contact; or to a stallion from further mating in that period.
These findings are a reminder for all horse owners to be vigilant for signs of the disease, follow strict biosecurity measures and follow codes of practice published by UK and ROI equine bodies: Horserace Betting Levy Board, Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association and Horse Sport Ireland.
Horse owners can also help prevent the disease spreading by:
vaccinating stallions against the disease - talk to their vet for advice
owners of mares and stallions are urged to have their animals tested before they are used for breeding
The above information is included in the leaflet developed by DAERA in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) in the Republic of Ireland, Horse Sport Ireland, Horse Racing Ireland and The Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association: https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/publications/equine-viral-arteritis-leaflet
EVA is a venereal and respiratory disease of horses. The disease has no impact on humans and there is no risk to public health.