Horse racing suspended in France due to equine virus

Rhinopneumonitis in horses is roughly equivalent to the common cold in people but a more serious strain has been spreading in Europe since mid-February

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Horse racing in France has been suspended until March 28 as a potentially deadly epidemic of a strain of Rhinopneumonitis - commonly known as “rhino” - spreads in Europe.

The strain, first detected in Valencia in Spain in mid-February, is called EHV-1 and can cause equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy (EHM) in horses, an inflammation of the blood vessels that supply the brain and spinal cord

Equestrian associations the Fédération française d'équitation (FFE) and the Société Hydrotechnique de France have made the joint decision to temporarily suspend all their national and international equestrian competitions, equine gatherings and training courses.

The FFE stated in a press release published on March 1 that it will continue to provide regular updates on the situation.

“We reiterate our call for vigilance and compliance with best practices in order to resume all activities as quickly as possible in an already heavily disrupted context,” it wrote, referencing the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“At a time when only professional closed-door gatherings and competitions are being organised, vaccination and vaccine recalls against this disease remain recommended for exposed horses.”

New cases are being reported every day, including in France, but the largest cluster remains the one in Valencia, where 150 horses are still in isolation.

"Those that are transportable have been evacuated to clinics not too far away, if possible, in Spain," said Jérôme Thévenot, the veterinarian in charge of show jumping at the FFE.

"The problem is that, a bit like in hospitals, we have saturation of emergency services in clinics," he told Franceinfo.

US-based horse owners magazine Equus writes that horses affected by the EHV-1 strain developed “neurological signs, including altered gaits, ataxia, a floppy tail and urinary leakage”.

“With supportive care, most horses who are able to remain on their feet are likely to make a full recovery from EHM.

“Outcomes are generally worse for those who become recumbent, although horses may recover with intensive care, which can include the use of support slings.”

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