African Horse Sickness Outbreak Suspected within Surveillance Zone

 A horse in Knysna, South Africa, is currently undergoing tests for African horse sickness (AHS), reports the South African Broadcasting Company (SABC). 

This horse is attracting a lot of attention because of its location along the Southern Cape, within the same province as Cape Town. Metropolitan Cape Town is the country's AHS-free zone, and the only area in the country from which horses can be exported.

Cobus Dowry, the Western Cape minister of agriculture, told SABC the results of tests will be known later today.

"There was one suspected case in the Knysna area that was referred by a private veterinary surgeon to the Onderstepoot laboratories to check out whether there is horse sickness in that area," Dowry told SABC. "If there is...we will have a problem. But we hope that this was a small case and there's nothing to worry about."

African horse sickness (AHS) is a fatal viral disease 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 for infected horses, no treatment is known. For survivors, recovery is slow. The disease is spread by Culicoides--tiny, blood-sucking insects.

A two-year ban on importing South African horses to the European Union was lifted in late October. The EU imposed that ban after AHS spread to the AHS-free zone in 2004.

Dowry told the SABC the ban cost the country's agriculture department 120 million Rand ($16.5 million).

For more information on African horse sickness, see www.TheHorse.com/ViewArticle.aspx?ID=5683.

About the Author

Erin Ryder

Erin Ryder is a former news editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care.

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