The Donkey Sanctuary and its partners are warning of an outbreak of Equine Influenza in Europe, a highly contagious disease that affects all equines.
The International Coalition for Working Equids (ICWE) is warning of a potential disease epidemic in West Africa, as Nigeria declares an outbreak of Equine Influenza, a highly contagious disease that affects all equines. Reports on the World Organization for Animal Health’s (OIE) website suggests that the outbreak, which has infected 3,000 equines in the country, is being attributed to the ‘illegal movement of donkeys’, and the coalition of animal welfare charities, The Donkey Sanctuary, Brooke, SPANA and World Horse Welfare view this incident as a plausible symptom of the unregulated global movement and trading of donkeys for their skins.
ICWE is hearing from partners in neighboring countries Mali and Ghana of donkeys showing similar characteristics of the disease, including fever and nasal discharge, although these have not been officially confirmed. The current outbreak in the UK and previous outbreaks in Australia and China have proven to have costly consequences to the equine populations, putting at risk not just working equines but domestic and competing animals too.
ICWE is now taking steps to alert at-risk countries of the threats of an equine influenza epidemic and to offer support to governments and donkey-owning communities alike to help with the situation, including distributing critical information to communities on how to prevent further spread of the disease.
At the same time, the coalition is imploring the at-risk countries to immediately prohibit movement of donkeys along trade routes and to tackle illegal movements.
With regards to the wider trading of donkeys for their skins, ICWE believes the biosecurity threats and risk of disease spread are also heightened in such an unregulated and global trade – both in live animals and their skin-product thereafter. It believes the trade must halt until there is evidence to demonstrate that the trade is humane, sustainable and free from the risk of the spread of disease.
Equine flu in Europe
The current outbreak in the UK and previous outbreaks in Australia and China have proven to have costly consequences to the equine populations, putting at risk not just working equines but domestic and competing animals too.
Due to the recent outbreak of Equine Influenza in the UK, The Donkey Sanctuary has taken the precautionary decision to temporarily close some of their Sanctuaries to members of the public until further notice. Their resident donkeys are not affected by this outbreak, but they are keeping a very close eye on them.
In Spain, an research done in 2018 by The Veterinarian Studies University of Cordoba, said that 1 of 2 equines in the area of Doñana has been in contact at some point in their lives with the virus.
How does the virus spread?
Equine Flu is caused by various strains of the Influenza virus that affect the upper and lower respiratory tract of horses, donkeys and mules. As with the human version, Equine Flu is very contagious. With an incubation period of 1-5 days, it spreads rapidly. The disease is spread by the virus being released into the atmosphere by infected animals. It is mainly acquired through inhalation of the virus from ill animals coughing and spluttering. Indirect spread is also possible via feed buckets or grooms, handlers, nurses and vets. There is a suggestion it can also be spread to canines too.
Unlike strangles and some other infections, the virus does not linger nor survive for long outside the donkey or horse.
What are the symptoms?
Very high temperature, which lasts for 1-3 days
Frequent harsh, dry cough that can last for several weeks
Clear, watery nasal discharge that may become thick and yellow or green
Enlarged glands under the lower jaw
Clear discharge from the eyes and redness around eyes
Depression and loss of appetite
Filling of the lower limbs.
What can I do to prevent this?
Find your donkey passport
Check the vaccination date
Book your donkey's annual Equine Flu inoculation with your vet
Put a reminder in your calendar for the next Equine Flu inoculation.
All UK and European donkeys should be issued with an Equine Passport, which will give details of due dates for Equine Flu innoculations.
If you suspect your donkey has Equine Flu, veterinary diagnosis and treatment is essential. Influenza debilitates the animal, leaving an equine susceptible to secondary infections. It may also develop into a more serious respiratory disorder.
Recovery may take several weeks and your donkey may take even longer to return to full health. Prevention is better than cure and donkeys should be vaccinated routinely.
Epidemiological survey of equine inﬂuenza in Andalusia, 2018, Jurado-Tarifa, E.; Daly, J.M.; Pérez-Écija, A.; Barba Recreo, M.; Mendoza,F.J.; Al-Shuwaikh, A.M.; y García-Bocanegra,I.
Equine Flu in Donkeys The Donkey Sanctuary