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A message from FEI Veterinary Director Göran Åkerström

Friday, 19 March 2021
EHV-1 (neurological form)

Photo © FEI/Richard Juilliart FEI Veterinary Director Göran Åkerström. Photo © FEI/Richard Juilliart.

 

The FEI has today published the following message from FEI Veterinary Director Göran Åkerström

 


 

The recent outbreak of the neurological form of the Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1 neurological form) in Europe has tragically resulted in the death of a number of horses and there are many still being treated for this very aggressive strain of the virus. One death is one too many, and we must do everything in our power to stop the spread of this terrible virus.

When the FEI was first notified on 20 February, we set out to minimise transmission of EHV-1 by tracing and blocking all in-contact horses, but as the severity and the geographical spread of the outbreak became apparent, we took tougher measures and shut down all international events across all disciplines in mainland Europe for four weeks up until 28 March.

On 12 March, that lockdown of international events was extended to 11 April and the FEI has urged all member National Federations to follow suit with their national competitions and training events.
These were not decisions that we took lightly, and we are extremely grateful for all the support we have received from the community, especially as we are all aware of the ramifications this extended shutdown means for our sport, our members and stakeholders. The willingness of the community to accept and even welcome the prolonged lockdown is testimony to our collective dedication to the safety and welfare of our horses.

To date, we have blocked almost 4,000 horses on the FEI Database, meaning they must be kept in isolation, and a negative PCR test will need to be provided prior to them being unblocked and cleared for competition.

While EHV-1 is endemic in many countries, the current outbreak of the neurological form is the worst we have seen in decades, and it has clearly tested our biosecurity processes and our resilience. Nobody wants to see an outbreak like this ever again. And we will continue to monitor EHV-1 outbreaks through the FEI Veterinary Epidemiology Working Group, composed of world-leading EHV specialists, members of the FEI Veterinary team and supported by the Chair of the FEI Veterinary Committee. Communication is crucial when dealing with an outbreak, and we will keep the community informed on the Working Group findings with a weekly report and recommendations published on the dedicated FEI EHV-1 hub where we have been and continue to post all our latest updates and information.

It is also very important for us to receive all the correct information for our risk assessments and decisions. For this we need your support. By informing us of positive EHV-1 test results and sick horses you contribute to our combined efforts to ensure a safe return to competition on 12 April 2021. Please send us this information, including the positive PCR result to [email protected] I guarantee you and your horse anonymity.

We understand that the current situation is creating a lot of uncertainty and worry within our community. The current outbreak is still a problem and we must all be part of the solution. Each of our actions will reduce the severity and the duration of this outbreak and make possible a safe restart of competition.

There will be a comprehensive and fully transparent investigation into every aspect of this outbreak and the way it has been handled, and we will be putting in place enhanced protocols to allow a safe return to play once the virus is under control.

The response to this crisis has clearly reflected the true community spirit for which the equestrian world is renowned, and we have seen members of the community rally together and provide incredible levels of support. We must continue working together to keep our horses safe. 

Yours sincerely,
Göran Åkerström, D.V.M.
FEI Veterinary Director



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