AHS Cases Prompt Horse Movement Restrictions in South Africa

The Chief Director of Veterinary Services in the Western Cape, Dr. Gininda Msiza, announced April 4 that restrictions have been placed on all direct horse movements into the Western Cape African Horse Sickness (AHS) Control Area from all other provinces in South Africa, effective immediately. The movement restrictions are outlined in the veterinary notice below.

These restrictions were instituted due to the increasing number of reported and suspicious AHS cases in the rest of the country. This AHS season, which stretches from January to June, has already seen 208 cases reported, 126 of which were fatal. Due to persistent high rainfall in the interior, the numbers of cases have increased dramatically and are also occurring earlier than in previous years. There have, to date, been no reported cases of AHS in the Western Cape this season.

African horse sickness is a fatal viral disease spread by Culicoides—tiny, blood-sucking insects—that can affect horses, mules, and donkeys, as well as dogs and camels. Horses are most susceptible to AHS, with a 75-90% mortality rate. A vaccine is available, but no effective treatment methods exist for infected horses. For survivors, recovery is slow.

Western Cape Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Gerrit van Rensburg said horse owners are strongly discouraged from attempting to move horses from anywhere in the "infected zone" into the Western Cape control area as the risk of transmitting the disease is increasing daily.

He said the local horse breeding industry is currently under a two year export ban, resulting from an AHS outbreak in 2011 in Mamre.

"We are hopeful to see this ban lifted in June this year after an EU (European Union) inspection and on condition of no further outbreaks in the controlled area," he said.

Van Rensburg said another outbreak in the AHS Control Area can potentially result in the death of local horses, as well as leading to another two year ban by the EU and causing further financial and horse losses to the equine industry as a whole.

Van Rensburg urges the public to cooperate in adhering to the movement controls as outlined in the veterinary notice below, and thus help preventing an outbreak of AHS in the Western Cape.

Enquiries can be directed to the State Veterinarian in Boland via telephone at 021 808 5253 or email at garyb@elsenburg.com.

Veterinary Notice: African Horse Sickness Restriction on The Movements Of Equines

This notice is issued in accordance with the Animal Diseases Act 35 of 1984 and the Animal Diseases Regulations.

Horses may only move to the AHS Control Area under the following conditions:

  • Horses may no longer move directly into the Western Cape AHS Control Zones from anywhere in the infected zone, but will have to stop-over for a minimum of two weeks following a negative PCR test for AHS or three weeks without a PCR test in Beaufort West or other approved holdings outside the AHS Controlled Area, under supervision of the local state veterinarian.
  • All such movements and stop-overs must be coordinated with the relevant state veterinarian.
  • The local state veterinarian at origin of the horse must also give approval before the horse can move.
  • Horses must still comply with the normal AHS protocol for movements prior to leaving any such restricted areas.

This is the highest risk period in the year for AHS and horse owners in close proximity to outbreaks throughout the country are strongly advised to:

  •  Stable their horses overnight or move to high-lying areas if possible, from two hours before sunset until two hours after sunrise while the midges are active.
  • Ensure all horses are correctly vaccinated, especially if they are in high-risk areas and not stabled.
  • Ensure horses are also treated with insect repellents daily.
  • Obtain permission for all movements from their local state and private veterinarians, and to ensure that the movement is approved by the State Veterinarian Boland, if it is into the Western Cape.
  • Not move horses into the Western Cape AHS Controlled Area unless it is absolutely essential and has been arranged in advance with the State Veterinarian in Boland.
  • Contact Dr. Jaco Pienaar at 023 414 2154 to organize a compulsory stop-over in Beaufort West, or if in other areas then the local state veterinarian if the movement is unavoidable.
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