The equine sector is being asked to “double down” on biosecurity measures following an outbreak of disease in horses on the continent.

Commenting on the ongoing outbreak of equine herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1) in horses on continental Europe, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue has urged all players in the equine industry to respond to the increased risk that this poses to the horse population in Ireland.

“I am aware that Irish horses have been competing across Europe in recent weeks. My officials met with representatives of Horse Sport Ireland and the Irish Equine Centre yesterday [Tuesday, March 2] to develop an appropriate risk mitigating response,” the minister said.

Given the extent that the virus seems to have spread across Europe and the description of the clinical outcome, I strongly endorse the recommendation from that meeting that all those competing horses, on returning to Ireland, follow the EHV-1 protocol.

This protocol involves returning FEI (International Federation for Equestrian Sports) horses being isolated and having two PCR tests carried out prior to completing quarantine.

EHV is a herpes virus that is spread widely across the world – including Ireland – where it usually manifests as a respiratory or reproductive disease and occasionally in a paralytic form.

Given its ubiquitous nature and the availability of a vaccine, EHV is not a notifiable disease. The disease can be contained by isolation and testing.

EHV is covered by industry codes of practice, in particular the prevention of EHV infection in breeding stock through good management and hygiene practices as well as regular vaccination.