“From the moment the horse goes to bed its vital prognosis is engaged”, alert Mathieu Lenormand, equine veterinarian, questioned by France 3 New Aquitaine. In recent weeks, rhinopneumonia, a known virus, very contagious and potentially fatal, worries the horse world. After Spain, several outbreaks of rhinopneumonia have been confirmed in France: in Calvados, Haute-Savoie, Hérault, Seine-et-Marne and New Aquitaine.
This worrying epidemic situation has prompted the French Equestrian Federation (FFE) and the French Equestrian Society (SHF) to suspend all national and international equestrian competitions that they organize or which are placed under their aegis, until the 28th. March included. This decision also concerns equine gatherings and FFE and SHF courses. Franceinfo comes back in four questions on this epidemic in the horse world.
1Where did this epidemic start from?
It is in Spain that it all begins. More precisely in Valencia where one of the biggest equestrian show jumping competitions took place in February. According to the Equine Pathology Epidemio-surveillance Network (Respe), at least half of the horses present presented clinical signs of rhinopneumonia. On the spot, “several horses had to be hospitalized and four died”, he details in a press release dated March 3.
According to the Respe, 150 horses are still in Valence, “blocked by the Spanish authorities for health reasons”. But others have returned to their stables and brought back the virus. “In France, several outbreaks have been confirmed in horse stables in the departments of Calvados, Haute-Savoie, Hérault and Seine-et-Marne. Others are being investigated in others. departments “, specifies the Respe. Cases have also been confirmed in Belgium, Germany and Switzerland.
2What are the symptoms of the illness ?
Equines returning from Spain present “mostly respiratory symptoms, or only hyperthermia”, underlines the health surveillance network. One of the veterinarians affiliated to the network and practicing in Deauville, Xavier d’Ablon, receives dozens of calls every day from worried owners who want to have their animal tested, as he explains to France 2.
“We regularly have epidemics. In this case, this is a neuropathogenic strain, that is to say, it affects the nervous system of the horse.”Xavier D’Ablon, veterinarian
to France 2
This infection, lherpesvirosis type 1 or HVE1, commonly called rhinopneumonia, manifests itself by three different ways, all accompanied by high fevers. The first is the respiratory form, which mainly affects young horses. The second appears during an abortion – it is also the leading cause of abortion in mares. The third is the nervous form and it is the one that is currently rife.
Because of its great contagiousness, HVE1 represents a significant health risk. The more so as the virus can remain in the latent state in the organism without apparent external sign. It is transmitted from horse to horse by coughing and throwing, this purulent nasal discharge in sick animals.
This infection is rarely fatal for the horse but it can lead to complications, particularly in its nervous form, with locomotion disorders or urinary incontinence, among others. The Respe specifies that to date “no deaths were reported on the territory”.
3Is this a known disease?
Yes. It is generally controlled and is not transmissible to humans. Moreover, apart from this epidemic, the Respe informs that “the number of cases of herpesvirosis type 1 remains, for the moment, in the values usually observed at this time of the year”. There is even a vaccine against HVE1 which must be injected in two doses, between four and six weeks apart for the primary vaccination, and must be boosted every six months. If it is not compulsory, this vaccine remains an effective preventive measure, even though it does not protect 100%. Like our flu shot for that matter.
4How to fight against rhinopneumonia?
The health measures taken against HVE1 are strangely similar to those to combat the spread of Covid-19. Any new arrival is thus quarantined. This is what rider Loïc Durain must have done on his return from Spain. His eleven horses were placed “in a completely empty stable which is only used for the organization of competitions”, he explains to France 3.
“It allowed us to quarantine the horses without there really being any contact with other horses.”Loïc Durain, horse owner
to france 3
From the first symptoms, the veterinarian is called. The latter then performs a PCR test with a nasal swab for respiratory forms. For nervous forms, research is focused on blood tests and for the aborative form it focuses on the tissues of the runt. To rule out the disease, two negative PCR tests are needed one week apart.
Not very resistant to the open air, the virus can however survive for several days in a favorable environment. Hygiene measures are therefore recommended, such as complete disinfection of boxes or trucks transporting equines. Especially since if the virus is not transmissible to humans, the latter can serve as a vector in the transmission of the disease via their hands or contaminated material.
In Alsace where the epidemic is not circulating for the moment, the equestrian centers are confined as a precautionary measure. “This epidemic requires us to leave the clubs closed while waiting for the situation to be regulated”, thus justifies the president of the horse club of Waldhof in the Bas-Rhin, questioned by France 3. A precaution that the Respe invites to follow by also calling the organizers of fairs and sales to postpone their events as far as possible.