Vaccination is the best defence against equine flu

Well over 200 cases of equine flu having been recorded in the UK so far this year, compared to just two cases in the whole of 2018. So it’s no wonder that the disease remains a big concern for horse owners across the country.

Unlike some other infectious diseases, like strangles, flu can drift on the air, making it much harder to prevent it from spreading. Vaccinating horses against flu is our best defence to protect them from infection.

Redwings has developed the below chart to show how flu vaccination works with a horse’s immune system to produce the antibodies that help fight off the disease. As you can see, to begin with the horse needs a primary course of three injections at specific intervals. Then immunity can be maintained with a regular booster jab.

In previous years an annual booster has been enough to keep a horse’s immunity to flu ticking over. But now that flu is so much more prevalent, as it is this year, the advice is currently to boost a horse’s vaccination every six months so they are better protected. The graph shows how boosting vaccination at six months keeps more antibodies circulating in a horse’s blood.

With more than 1,500 rescued residents in our direct care, Redwings is one of the biggest horse owners in the UK. We also care for many vulnerable horses who are very young, elderly, or have other health problems. Equine flu is not just a cold for horses. It can be very debilitating, cause long-term complications and even prove fatal, and an outbreak at Redwings would be potentially devastating. It also has a high emotional cost for horse owners, both those whose horses become infected and those who know that flu is circulating in their local area.

Redwings’ vets and nurses have been working hard to ensure our residents have had their flu vaccinations boosted at six months. This has naturally meant finding extra time and money. But as always, the health of our rescued residents is our first priority and, thanks to our supporters, we have been able to offer our horses the additional protection they deserve.

Please feel free to share the graph to help spread the word about the importance of vaccination. We hope that readers involved in equine health care or education will find it especially useful.