Deadly African Horse Sickness Outbreak

Thirteen horses in the Western Cape, South Africa, are believed to have succumbed to an outbreak of African horse sickness (AHS) by March 22, according to several news reports. The affected horses were from the Stellenbosch magesterial district and surrounding areas, reported

The first cases occurred at the Elsenburg Agricultural College the week of Feb. 23. AHS was confirmed by samples taken from several of the affected horses and sent to the Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute and Equine Research Centre in Pretoria.

African horse sickness is a rapidly spreading, lethal virus spread by the Culicoides bolitinos midge, a species of small fly. Midges need an infected horse as a viral source for the disease to spread.

Officials were monitoring the situation, and disease control measures included vaccination of more than 1,000 horses in the area.

Initially, a ban was placed on the movement of horses in and out of the AHS-free area and in and out of the 100-km surveillance zone; however, as of March 22 it had been lightened. The Elsenburg Agricultural College was in the country's AHS surveillance zone. Various disease control measures were put in place for those transporting horses.

Before this outbreak, the disease had not been seen in the Western Cape since a 1999 outbreak, which resulted in a ban on the export of horses to the European Union for two years, resulting in lost income for the racing and breeding industries (see

About the Author

Sarah Evers Conrad

Sarah Evers Conrad has a bachelor’s of arts in journalism and equine science from Western Kentucky University. As a lifelong horse lover and equestrian, Conrad started her career at The Horse: Your Guide to Equine Health Care magazine. She has also worked for the United States Equestrian Federation as the managing editor of Equestrian magazine and director of e-communications and served as content manager/travel writer for a Caribbean travel agency. When she isn’t freelancing, Conrad spends her free time enjoying her family, reading, practicing photography, traveling, crocheting, and being around animals in her Lexington, Kentucky, home.

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from Learn More