Media Centre

Working group acts on African Horse Sickness

THE potential impact of African Horse Sickness (AHS) on the British rural economy is to be assessed in a piece of research being commissioned by the AHS Working Group.

The group is formed of representatives from the Government and from the equine industry, in a partnership that seeks to counter the threat from the disease.

While the group acknowledges that the risk of an AHS outbreak in the UK is low, it also says that the disease would kill many horses if it struck and was not caught early and controlled. The group has been working on a control strategy which it intends to launch later this year.

Rural economists are undertaking an initial assessment of the likely costs to the rural economy of an outbreak of AHS and the impact of the control measures that would be introduced under the European directiveon AHS.

They will look at the economic and social impact on the rural sector, taking into account the disease biology, veterinary considerations, epidemiology and meteorology.

The impact assessment will be completed by mid-summer and will provide information for the Government and the industry to draw on when developing contingency plans for AHS control in the event of an outbreak occurring.

Funding will come from across the equine sector, including organisations involved with horses, ponies and donkeys.

AHS Working Group members also worked with Defra to produce and publish two new leaflets on AHS which will help horse owners and handlers understand the nature
of the disease, the need for surveillance and advice on control.

The leaflets are being launched today by Jane Kennedy, minister for the horse, at the National Equine Forum in London. They can be downloaded from the Defra website.

Chairman of the AHS Working Group, Paul Jepson of The Horse Trust, said: "The risk of African Horse Sickness reaching the UK is regarded as small – but the potential impact on our horse populationis immense.

"Donkeys, children's ponies, much-loved riding horses, showjumpers, polo ponies and race horses would all be under threat. The message to horse owners and their vets is: be prepared."





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