Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Virus poses threat to KZN's horses

January 20 2009 at 07:12AM

By Gugu Mbonambi

KwaZulu-Natal could face a serious outbreak of African horse sickness, which has already killed 11 horses in the province since the beginning of the year, according to African Horse Sickness Trust chairperson Douglas Welsh.

He said the situation was likely to worsen, as the recent rainy and humid conditions were conducive to further outbreaks.

"The virus has killed nine horses in the Newcastle and Dundee areas, one in Kosi Bay and one in Waterberg. The normal outbreak period is usually from February until the end of May, therefore early outbreaks could result in substantial losses of horses this year," he said.

Welsh said the trust was awaiting laboratory results for one suspected case in Nottingham Road, where the virus could pose a serious threat as there was a high density of horses in that area.

"Owing to the proliferation of game farms in the Midlands and the high volume of zebras (which are the main hosts of the midges that carry the disease), horse owners in those areas are advised to take extra precautions to ensure that their horses are not at risk," he said.

Racing South Africa chief executive officer Peter Gibson echoed Welsh's sentiments, and urged horse owners to take preventive measures as they entered the high-risk period for the virus.

Horse owners are advised to practise the following disease management options:

a.. Keep horses stabled from 3pm until 9am;

a.. Use effective insect repellents;

a.. Ensure that outdoor horses kept in low-lying areas are moved to high ground when there is strong wind; and

a.. Ensure that horses are vaccinated as early as possible.

Horse owners are also advised to telephone their local state veterinarian, or the chief state vet, Gary Buhrmann, at 021 808 5026, if they need more information.

a.. This article was originally published on page 1 of The Mercury on January 20, 2009

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