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Equine disease outbreak - what to do?

If there is an equine disease outbreak on your yard, there are steps you can take to manage the outbreak and help prevent it from spreading within and from your yard.

  • Last reviewed: 9th June 2022
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What to do when you first suspect a horse is infected

If you are concerned that a horse has been exposed to a contagious disease, has a high temperature or is showing signs of illness, you should immediately: 

  • Isolate them and contact your vet 
  • Set up a designated, isolated area to warn people not to go near or touch the horse 
  • Closely monitor the horse and how much they are drinking and eating 

Speak out!

Speaking out is a vital part of a proactive response to help prevent further disease spread and promote good practices on the yard. If you have any reason to suspect a horse may have a contagious disease act immediately and warn other yards in your area along with any visitors to your yard, for example a farrier. We should commend and support those yards who take this action. 

What to do once there's a confirmed case

If there is a contagious disease outbreak on your yard, you should use the traffic light system to separate horses into colour-coded groups based on the likelihood they have been infected. This helps to minimise the spread of disease and also helps you to make sure individual horses are monitored appropriately.

Red

Horses showing any clinical signs of disease and confirmed cases. 

  • Immediately isolate from all other horses, ideally, to a different location on the property well away from the healthy horses 
  • Seek veterinary attention and support 

Amber

Horses show no signs of disease but have been in contact with a horse in the red group in the last three weeks.

  • Keep separate from those in the red and green groups
  • Closely monitor for the development of any clinical signs of disease
  • Take their temperature twice daily (an increased temperature often appears before other clinical signs of disease)

Green

Horses show no signs of disease and have had no contact with horses in the red or amber group in the last three weeks.

  • Keep separate from those in the red and amber groups
  • Closely monitor for the development of any clinical signs of disease
  • Take their temperature twice daily

More steps to take

  • Colour coordinate all equipment, so everything is kept within the relevant colour zone. 
  • Try to avoid changing who cares for the horses in each group. However, if staffing is limited, handle the horses in the order of green, amber, red, and between each group, change coveralls, disinfect boots and wash your hands. 
  • Keep records and monitor all horses closely. 
  • Do not move horses from the yard regardless of what colour group they are in, as they may be infected but not yet showing any signs. 
  • Work closely with your vet, and do not move any horses out of their isolation group until your vet confirms they are completely disease-free.  
  • If you have horses under different vets on the yard, make sure the vets are all informed so they can work closely together. In such cases, a lead vet is often nominated to communicate between all involved and avoid multiple vets entering the yard.