Equine viral arteritis: how to spot and report the disease

The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer confirmed a case of Equine Viral Arteritis (EVA) in a non-thoroughbred stallion in Devon. Three further cases were confirmed in Dorset in April.

Restrictions on breeding have been put in place on the animal to limit the risk of the disease spreading and further investigations are ongoing.

Chief Veterinary Officer, Christine Middlemiss, said: “We are taking action to limit the risk of the disease spreading by placing breeding restrictions on the animals. A full investigation is continuing to determine the source and possible spread of the infection. Owners of mares and stallions are urged to have their animals tested before they are used for breeding.”

Equine viral arteritis (EVA) affects horses, donkeys and other equids. So what are the signs and how is it spread?

EVA is a notifiable disease in all stallions, and in mares that have been mated or inseminated in the last 14 days. The disease can be spread through:

· Mating

· Artificial Insemination (AI)

· Contact with aborted foetuses contaminated equipment

· On the breath of infected animals for up to 2 weeks after initial infection

Stallions can carry the disease without showing clinical signs and spread the disease through sexual contact, or if their semen is used for artificial insemination.

Signs of EVA can include:

· Abortions (failed pregnancies)

· Conjunctivitis (bloody tissue around the eye) swelling of testicles or udder

· Swelling around eyes and lower legs

· Fever and runny nose

· Anorexia (poor appetite)

· Lethargy and stiff movement

However, many infected horses will show no clinical signs. In rare cases the disease can cause severe clinical signs or death in young foals.

If EVA is suspected breeders must:

· Isolate any animals you think are affected
· Stop the suspect animals mating
· Report your suspicions to the Defra Rural Services Helpline and an APHA vet will investigate

If equine viral arteritis is confirmed the outbreak will be controlled in line with the contingency plan for exotic notifiable diseases.

These findings are a reminder to breeders to be vigilant for signs of disease and follow strict biosecurity measures. Preventing the spread of the disease can be helped by

· Following the Horserace Betting Levy Board Code of Practice

· Testing animals before they are used for breeding.

· Considering vaccinating stallions against the disease

· Practising good biosecurity on your premises

Stallions suspected of having equine viral arteritis may be banned from use in breeding, along with semen from that stallion.

For further information and advice visit https://www.gov.uk/guidance/equine-viral-arteritis

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