In the United Kingdom, an outbreak of equine flu has reportedly led the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) to cancel all of its scheduled competitions until at least Wednesday.

Six animals diagnosed:

According to a Friday report from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the outbreak was first spotted in a trio of horses in Cheshire only hours after some of their stable-mates had raced at tracks in Wolverhampton, Ludlow and Ayr on February 6. The broadcaster detailed that a further three animals from the same facility have since been diagnosed with the highly contagious disease, which is caused by strains of the influenza A virus and features symptoms such as coughing, high fever and nasal discharge.

Stables on lockdown:

The BBC reported that some 174 horseracing stables have since been placed on lockdown as testing continues while Irish officials have reacted quickly by banning any British-trained horses from taking part in events on the island.

Reportedly read a statement from the BHA…

“It will not be possible to test every horse from every yard before the end of the weekend but we will work with trainers to identify any priority or risk horses and ensure that they are tested. This will all form part of the picture that is built in order to assist the decisions that will be made on Monday.”

Cheltenham worries:

The broadcaster reported that this week’s outbreak has reminded many of the foot-and-mouth crisis that ravaged British horseracing some 18 years ago while some observers have even speculated that the start of the jump industry’s showpiece four-day Cheltenham Festival, which is due to get underway from March 12, could be delayed.

Brant Dunshea, Chief Regulatory Officer for the BHA, reportedly told the BBC that there ‘is a potential risk’ that horseracing meets across Great Britain could suspended for weeks although he subsequently added that no such decision would be taken without ‘thinking through all the consequences’.

‘Catastrophic’ to continue:

Local horseracing trainer Seamus Mullins reportedly told the BBC’s Radio 5 Live program that continuing to race in the face of an outbreak of equine flu, which can be spread through the air, ‘could be catastrophic’ for the industry as normal meets see up to 100 horses ‘from all parts of the country’ stabled near to one another. After competing, he detailed that the animals ‘all go back home to their own yard’ and that this could lead to the disease spreading further.

Mullins to the BBC…

“It’s very similar to human flu; the symptoms are the same and the horses feel the same. You get a high temperature, a nasal discharge and eventually you get coughing and the horses feel rough. It’s similar to humans but they get over it.”