New African Horse Sickness Recognition Regulations Adopted

New African Horse Sickness Recognition Regulations Adopted

Countries can now request a recognition status for African horse sickness from the OIE. Here, an African horse is vaccinated against the disease.

Photo: Dr. Douglas Welsh

African horse sickness (AHS) is now one of the four animal diseases--and the only equine disease--for which countries can request a recognition status from the World Animal Health Organization (OIE). The new regulation was adopted during the OIE's general assembly in late May.

According to an OIE spokesman, the new regulation allows member nations to request an official disease status label for their countries. Countries without animals affected by the disease can be officially declared AHS-free, and those with affected animals can be recognized for their "transparency" with regard to reporting the disease, said an OIE spokesman.

"A country may either lose or enhance its commercial attractiveness in the eyes of potential or existing importing partners, depending on official recognition of its disease status," the OIE said in an online report. "By acquiring and maintaining its official status, a country also demonstrates transparency and helps to promote animal health and public health worldwide, thereby gaining the trust of its partners and of the international community."

The OIE will not, however, give countries AHS status automatically. Individual nations must apply for the recognition by submitting a thorough dossier documenting, among other things, the disease's history within the country. The OIE grants status labels only during the annual general assembly each May.

Contrary to other reports in circulation that were not published by the OIE, no member nations have been granted AHS recognition status yet, the OIE spokesman said. AHS recognition status will not be available until 2013.

The OIE also recognizes disease status for lung plague (contagious bovine pleuropneumonia, or CBPP), foot and mouth disease, and mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy). Cattle plague (rinderpest) was listed previously, but the disease was considered eradicated worldwide in 2011 and therefore removed from the OIE list.

"The official recognition of disease status of member countries is of great significance for international trade and constitutes one of the most important legal links between the OIE and World Trade Organization," the OIE report read.

Standard operating procedures for applying for OIE status of AHS will soon be available on the OIE website, the spokesperson said.

About the Author

Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA

Christa Lesté-Lasserre is a freelance writer based in France. A native of Dallas, Texas, Lesté-Lasserre grew up riding Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and Shetland Ponies. She holds a master’s degree in English, specializing in creative writing, from the University of Mississippi in Oxford and earned a bachelor's in journalism and creative writing with a minor in sciences from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She currently keeps her two Trakehners at home near Paris. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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