A press release from the office of Alan Winde, Minister of Economic Opportunities, dated 13 April 2016 stated that vets in the Western Cape have moved swiftly to contain the spread of African Horse Sickness in a bid to protect the province’s multi-million rand horse export industry.
Last Friday, 8 April 2016, an African Horse Sickness related death was confirmed in the Western Cape and movement restrictions implemented.
Minister Winde stated, “Following the confirmation of AHS, vets immediately launched a testing campaign. We have already tested 70 horses in this surrounding area and we will continue to test until we are sure there are no other infected horses in the area. At this stage, we are in the clear.”
On Tuesday, 12 April 2016, Winde visited Schoongezicht, the Paarl farm where the AHS death occurred last week. The owner of the farm, Lodewikus Hanekom, has nine horses left, most of which are Arabians. He uses two for endurance riding competitions. None of the other animals have tested positive for AHS.
Reports have indicated that the death may have been the result of an ‘illegal’ vaccination, in this case meaning a vaccination administered outside the officially prescribed 1 June – 30 October vaccination window. When queried on the matter, Minister Winde’s office confirmed that as most vaccines are Act 36 products, anyone can buy an AHS vaccine and vaccinate their own horses. However, in the AHS Controlled Area owners are not allowed to vaccinate their horses themselves and it can only be done by a veterinarian who first requests permission from the State Vet Boland office and also only in the prescribed period. “Only registered veterinarians can charge money to vaccinate someone else’s horse, and only veterinarians can sign a horse’s passport or vaccination book to certify that it has been vaccinated for official purposes. We will, of course, investigate horses on the surrounding properties by asking for and looking at their vaccination records, but if an illegal vaccination occurred, it will most likely be impossible to discover if there are no written records.”
Movement restrictions will remain in place for at least 40 days after the last detected case.
“If more cases are detected, the movement restriction period will be extended. We are aware that there is an impact on the industry and that shows have had to be cancelled. These are the measures we have to take to protect our horse export industry, which is worth R250 million per year.”
Minister Winde appealed to horse owners to take the necessary precautions to safe-guard their horses.
“AHS is spread by biting midges and we urge horse owners to stable their horses from two hours before sunset to two hours after dawn to minimise the risk of the vector of the disease having contact with their horses. In addition, we appeal to owners to use a registered insect repellent during the vector feeding periods. Currently, vaccination against African horse sickness is not permitted within the AHS surveillance zone without special permission from a state veterinarian,” said Minister Winde.
A containment zone has been implemented for this incident as follows:
• The eastern border of the zone follows the border of the AHS surveillance zone from Gordon’s Bay along the Limietberg mountain range to the Voëlvlei dam. The boundary of the containment zone then extends westwards past the southern end of the Voëlvlei dam to the R46, which it follows through Hermon, Riebeeck Kasteel and to Malmesbury;
• The western border of the zone follows the N7 until it intersects with the N2;
• The N2 serves as the southern border of the containment zone until it reaches the eastern border at Gordon’s Bay;
• Roads that make up the borders of the zone are not included in the movement restrictions and transport of horses along these roads is permitted.
(please click here for an interactive map)
Minister Winde’s office also confirmed that there are no plans to adjust the containment area at this stage.
Any owner within the AHS surveillance zone detecting illness in horses, which includes unexplained fever, swelling of the head and neck and difficulty breathing should report the case to the local state vet. Visit www.elsenburg.com for the contact details of the relevant state vet.
Movement permit applications can be lodged with Dr Camilla Weyer at [email protected]