All Horse Events in 10 European Nations Shut for Month to Deal with Equine Herpes Virus Outbreak Declared by FEI as “Probably Most Serious in Decades”

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Mar. 1, 2021

Horse events in 10 European nations ordered shut down for a month to deal with an outbreak of aggressive Equine Herpes Virus EHV-1 that the International Equestrian Federation declared Monday as “probably the most serious” on the continent in decades.

France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Italy, Austria, Poland and Slovakia were the nations named by the FEI as ordering closure of shows to Mar. 28.

At the show grounds in Valencia, Spain where the outbreak that was first detected more than a week ago, four horses died over the weekend, 84 more were being treated after showing clinical signs and another 11 horses were being treated in veterinary clinics in Valencia and Barcelona.

Outbreaks of the strain that the FEI described as “particularly aggressive” were confirmed in France, Germany and Belgium.

“We remain concerned that several sick and in-contact horses left the (Valencia) venue before it was closed for departures and that they may spread the disease,” the FEI said in an update.

The FEI said the event cancellations had “immediate effect and until 28 March 2021 due to the rapid evolution of a very aggressive strain of the neurological form of Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1), which originated in Valencia and has already resulted in related outbreaks in at least three other countries in Europe.

“This decision applies to all FEI disciplines, but in order to prevent huge numbers of horses simultaneously departing the jumping tours on the Iberian Peninsula, in Italy and Belgium that have been ongoing for a number of weeks, these specific tours will be allowed to continue as individual ‘bubbles’ on the condition that absolutely no new horses are allowed to enter the venues and no positive cases of EHV-1 are confirmed.”

“This was not an easy decision to block events in mainland Europe, particularly after the major disruption to the FEI calendar caused by the Covid-19 pandemic,” FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez said, “but this EHV-1 outbreak is probably the most serious we have had in Europe for many decades and our decision is based on clearly identified epidemiological risk factors.

“This strain of EHV-1 is particularly aggressive and has already caused equine fatalities and a very large number of severe clinical cases. We need to keep our horses safe.

“We are also aware that a large number of horses left the venue in Valencia without an official health certificate, meaning they had an unknown health status. Some horses were already sick, and the risk of transmission from these horses is a major concern.

“Cancelling these competitions in mainland Europe, with the exception of the ongoing jumping tours in the Iberian Peninsula and Italy, limits the number of horses travelling internationally and therefore reduces the likelihood of this very serious virus being transmitted on an increasingly wider scale. We also strongly recommend that the affected member federations should also cancel their national events.

“We are very conscious of the fact that this is a very stressful and distressing time, and that this is potentially hugely disruptive for those athletes aiming for their Minimum Eligibility Requirements or confirmation results for Tokyo (Olympics), but we are looking at ways to alleviate that in order to assist athlete/horse combinations in getting their MERs or confirmation results once the events in mainland Europe are allowed to resume.”

The cancellation also throw into doubt the World Cup Finals of dressage and jumping set for Gothenburg, Sweden the first week of April.

caused by the Covid-19 pandemic”, FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez said, “but this EHV-1 outbreak is probably the most serious we have had in Europe for many decades and our decision is based on clearly identified epidemiological risk factors.

“This strain of EHV-1 is particularly aggressive and has already caused equine fatalities and a very large number of severe clinical cases. We need to keep our horses safe.

“We are also aware that a large number of horses left the venue in Valencia without an official health certificate, meaning they had an unknown health status. Some horses were already sick, and the risk of transmission from these horses is a major concern.

“Cancelling these competitions in mainland Europe, with the exception of the ongoing Jumping Tours in the Iberian Peninsula and Italy, limits the number of horses travelling internationally and therefore reduces the likelihood of this very serious virus being transmitted on an increasingly wider scale. We also strongly recommend that the affectedmember Federations should also cancel their national events.

“We are very conscious of the fact that this is a very stressful and distressing time, and that this is potentially hugely disruptive for those athletes aiming for their Minimum Eligibility Requirements (MERs) or confirmation results for Tokyo, but we are looking at ways to alleviate that in order to assist athlete/horse combinations in getting their MERs or confirmation results once the events in mainland Europe are allowed to resume.”

The FEI is conscious that some athletes have already arrived on competition venues or are en route, and is directly contacting all impacted athletes entered in Events between now and 28 March 2021.