Equine flu outbreak stops British horse racing

An outbreak of equine flu has led to the cancellation of all horse races in Britain until February 13 at the earliest.

Three vaccinated horses had tested positive for the disease in an active racing yard, forcing the sport’s ruling body, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), to call off four scheduled meetings Thursday.

But the ban has been extended over fears the outbreak could have spread, with horses from the affected stables taking part in race meetings Wednesday.

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“Whilst no further positive tests have been received, at least three more days are required before it will be possible to make a decision about whether it is safe to resume racing,” the latest BHA statement read.

Symptoms can take up to three days to manifest, meaning any decision to continue racing will be delayed until February 11.

“This precautionary approach is intended to ensure we put the health of the horse population and control of the virus first, and avoid any unnecessary risk that might come from returning to racing too quickly,” the statement continued.

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What is equine flu?

Equine influenza is a highly infectious disease that can affect horses, mules and donkeys across the world.

The disease — which can cause respiratory problems — usually spreads between horses in close contact and can be airborne across short distances.

Although chances of fatality are low in healthy thoroughbreds, young foals and unhealthy horses are in danger of complications.

There are no known consequences for humans exposed to the flu.

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All British race horses have been vaccinated against the disease, which means the outbreak poses a worrying threat.

“The fact that the cases have been identified in vaccinated horses presents a cause for significant concern over welfare and the potential spread of the disease and the action to cancel racing has been viewed as necessary,” read the original BHA statement Wednesday.

The meetings called off Thursday were at Huntingdon, Doncaster, Ffos Las and Chelmsford.