South African Horse Sickness Cases Approach 300

African horse sickness (AHS) has struck close to 300 horses in South Africa so far this year, killing approximately half of them and prompting an embargo on horse transports in Western Cape. The area on equine lockdown includes the country's import/export zone, according to information provided by the African Horse Sickness Trust.

Seven of the 12 South African provinces have been hit this season. Gauteng alone has reported 130 cases, and Eastern Cape has nearly 70.

Five provinces, including Western Cape, have reported zero cases.

Areas which have been consistently vaccinating five months in advance of outbreaks for at least three years--which brings the vaccine to its full level of efficacy--are faring best against the disease, said Douglas Welsh, DVM, president of the Trust. (For more on the Trust's new blanket AHS vaccination campaign, see Horse Sickness Campaign Producing Results.)

Many young horses cannot get adequate immunization until their second year.
As foaling season is in the fall in South Africa, many young horses cannot get adequate immunization until their second year.

Additionally, owners often do not get their horses vaccinated during the off-season because the threat seems distant at that time, Welsh said.

"Then there's an outbreak and people come out of the woodwork all wanting to have their horses vaccinated," he said.

Vaccinating during an outbreak can be either inefficient or detrimental, he said.

Although numbers are up compared to last year (163 reported cases and 89 deaths), fewer provinces are affected in the current outbreak.  

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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