Horse industries around globe remain at high risk from equine flu: review

POSTED ON  |  20-06-2022

H3N8 Equine Influenza
Horse-related industries around the world remain at high risk of equine influenza outbreaks, the authors of a just-published review concluded. Much of what is known about the equine flu virus has followed from techniques and findings in the human field, Fleur Whitlock, Pablo Murcia and Richard Newton wrote in the journal Viruses. Influenza A viruses have a main natural reservoir in wild birds. They are highly contagious, continually evolve, and have a wide host range that includes horses, pigs, and humans.

The trio, with the University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, said equine influenza remains endemic in many countries, and seasonal human influenza epidemics occur annually. Influenza epidemics and pandemics affect both species, usually after the introduction of a novel influenza A virus. “Ever changing, their threat is constant, and furthering our understanding of host-pathogen interaction is integral to inform control and prevention measures.”

Their review examined a range of aspects surrounding equine flu, ranging from elements of the virus itself to disease progression, immune response, clinical aspects, and factors relating to its spread. They also explored existing evidence around surveillance and preventive measures such as vaccines. Examination of the development and progression of infections, including viral-host interactions, remains fundamental in combating influenza A viruses in humans and horses, they said.

Although much is known about human risk factors for infection and outcomes, similar information is still lacking in the equine field. Equine veterinary surgeons should be encouraged to understand their role in improving scientific understanding of the equine flu virus by sampling suspect cases, reporting unexpected events following infection, and encouraging post-mortem examinations, the review team said.

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