Yard management and quarantine... Herd immunity and biosecurity

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The principles of robust disease control should focus on vaccination and good yard management, which in combination will limit the spread of many infectious diseases.

Disease control is important on all yards, large or small, but certain yards will be higher risk than others, depending on factors such as size, levels of horse movement and local disease risk.

Improving the immunity of all the horses on the yard through vaccination is crucial in limiting the spread of infectious disease. When a high percentage of horses in any given population are vaccinated, all animals benefit from what is called herd immunity – with the majority of horses protected by vaccination, there are too few susceptible horses to allow effective transmission of the disease; unvaccinated individuals are protected by the herd’s high level of vaccination and disease propagation is limited.

Current estimates of horses vaccinated against Equine Influenza (EI) in Britain stand at below 50% – the herd immunity level of vaccination needed to protect all horses is closer to 70%. The more horses that are vaccinated, the harder it is for disease to spread, so it is important that all owners vaccinate to safeguard their horse, hobby and the sport in general. The Keeping Britain’s Horses Healthy (KBHH) campaign has set a target of 70% of all horses in Britain to be vaccinated and to achieve this we need your help. Are your horses’ vaccinations up to date?

Good yard management and hygiene will help to keep disease off the premises or, in the event of an outbreak, limit spread within the premises. Measures that are put in place to limit the spread of disease are called biosecurity.

Good biosecurity measures aren’t complicated, but they are important for any yard. Dedicated equipment for each horse can reduce the risk of disease transmission as many diseases can be spread by shared buckets, brushes and tack. Disinfecting stables and equipment before they are used by another horse is also prudent. At shows or while out hacking, try to avoid direct contact with other horses that you don’t know and avoid shared troughs and water buckets. If you handle other horses, wash your hands after each contact so you don’t spread disease between horses.

New arrivals on a yard should be quarantined for at least three weeks and be monitored closely for symptoms. If disease is suspected in a horse on your yard, quarantine it and call the practice immediately so that a prompt diagnosis can be made. We will be able to advise on what measures are required, if any, to manage not just the affected horse, but also if necessary, to minimise disease risk to others.