Officials at the World Equestrian Center confirmed a total of nine cases of equine influenza at the Wilmington, Ohio, horse show venue on Feb. 15. This comes after three horses tested positive for the virus on Feb. 13. The nine horses are currently in isolation at the WEC veterinary clinic in various stages of recovery. The facility is currently in Week 8 of its winter series of the Midwest indoor horse show circuit, which hosts up to 600 stalls each week from December until April.
WEC horse show veterinarian Holly Helbig, DVM, working in conjunction with horse show manager Brandon Saxton, implemented a three-phase process for managing the affected horses. Any horse that presents with symptoms is moved to a separate barn on the property and tested for the virus. A positive case is then moved to isolation, located at the on-site veterinary clinic. Horses in isolation are being closely monitored and given round the clock care by Helbig. Once the affected horses stop showing clinical signs they will be moved to a third “step down” isolation area where they will be retested, and horses with a negative swab will be released.
“We are setting a higher standard to disease prevention at horse shows and following through with our set USEF isolation protocol,” said Helbig. “World Equestrian Center’s proactive isolation plan is allowing us to stay out in front of the virus and manage it for positive outcomes. Our open communication with exhibitors is helping to remove any stigma associated with the illness. It encourages exhibitors to work with us—adhering to biosecurity protocol and reporting any symptoms immediately, which will help with containment.”
WEC owner Roby Roberts is in contact with veterinarians nationwide who have advised that horse show facilities across the United States have been seeing multiple cases of horses with the equine influenza virus, in all areas of the country.
“Equine influenza is not a reportable illness, but we choose to be transparent in communicating the situation here in Ohio to help exhibitors make informed decisions about their animals,” Roberts said. “Although there is no mandatory isolation with equine influenza, our operating procedures and elevated biosecurity measures are aimed at ensuring a safe and healthy environment for the horses and ponies that show at our facility.”
The global equestrian community is being affected by the equine influenza virus in what is being reported as one of the worst years on record for the virus in Europe and the United States. Confirmed cases have been reported worldwide in Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain and Ireland since the beginning of the year. The impact has been widespread and has prompted proactive measures from governing bodies such as the British Horseracing Authority, which earlier this month canceled racing at all British racecourses for six days after vaccinated horses tested positive for the virus.