In the guide
This guidance is for Wales
African horse sickness is a disease that affects equidae - that is, horses, donkeys and mules. It is an infectious and fatal disease and is classified as an orbivirus.
It does not spread directly from one horse to another, but is transmitted by the Culicoides midge, which becomes infected when feeding on other infected equidae.
It has never been present in the UK and occurs mostly in the warm and favours heavy rainfall in sub-Saharan Africa where it is endemic.
African horse sickness is a notifiable disease, therefore you must contact the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA - 0300 303 8268) if you suspect the disease.
Due to the nature of the disease, any animals suspected of having African horse sickness will be isolated and movement restrictions put in place. Blood tests would be undertaken to confirm the disease and any infected animals may be slaughtered.
There are four forms of the disease: (i) one affects the lungs, (ii) another the heart, (iii) is a mixture of these two and (iv) is a mild form of the disease.
The lung form can show the following signs:
The heart form can show the following signs:
The mixed form is characterised by signs of both the above forms of the disease.
The mildest 'fever' form is characterised by fever without other clinical signs and has the lowest death rate.
The premises where disease is confirmed will be put under restriction so no animals can move on or off.
A control zone, protection zone and surveillance zone may be set up around the infected premises.
The control zone must have a radius of at least 20 kilometres, the protection zone must have a radius of at least 100 kilometres and the surveillance zone must have a radius of at least 150 kilometres, each centred on the part of the premises that the Welsh Ministers considers most appropriate for disease control.
Horses contained within these zones may be placed under movement restrictions and be required to be tested.
African horse sickness does not affect humans so there are no human or public health implications.
Maintain good biosecurity. Guidance on biosecurity is available on the GOV.UK website.
If you import any animals ensure that they are isolated and monitored. All imports must comply with the legal requirements and you must ensure that all documentation for imported horses is complete and accurate.
If you are concerned that your horse, donkey, etc is unwell you should contact your local veterinary surgeon.
If you suspect that your horse has any of the clinical signs of African horse sickness then this needs to be reported immediately to APHA, as well as your private veterinary surgeon. See Notifiable diseases in animals on the GOV.UK website.
The African Horse Sickness (Wales) Regulations 2013 make provisions for dealing with any suspected and confirmed cases of African horse sickness. They give powers to set up control zones and allows veterinary officers to take blood samples from animals within the zones.
The Regulations set out special provisions for dealing with slaughterhouses and non-captive horses, and prohibit vaccination against African horse sickness except in the circumstances covered within the Regulations.
The African Horse Sickness Control Strategy for Great Britain is available on the GOV.UK website.
Last reviewed / updated: September 2016
This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.
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