Ross River Virus in Horses
With all of the recent wet weather it’s important to remember that the best prevention of disease in your animals is keeping an eye on both their behaviour and general well-being and being aware of any changes in both.
Courtney Wilson from ABC News recently interviewed PAC Vets to find out more about the disease and it’s impact on the Equine Industry.
See her great article below:
Horses succumbing to Ross River virus in Queensland, affecting equestrian events and recreational riders
A surge in mosquito numbers in south-east Queensland is posing health risks for horses, as well as humans.
The recent spike in the number of people contracting Ross River virus has been well documented, but that the virus can also affect horses is relatively unknown.
“There’s been an explosion of mosquitoes at the end of summer, and there’s been a spill over both in people and in animals, in horses in particular, of Ross River virus,” veterinarian Rod Stephenson said.
He went from being a really cuddly, sweet horse to quite grumpy and aggressive.Danielle Smyth, whose horse Steele has Ross River virus.
The debilitating disease is causing major problems for Queensland’s equestrian competitors and recreational riders.
Danielle Smyth’s five-year-old thoroughbred, Steele, recently tested positive.
“His attitude completely changed,” Ms Smyth said.
“He went from being a really cuddly, sweet horse to quite grumpy and aggressive.”
Ms Smyth said Steele’s symptoms included stiff muscles, low-grade lameness and general lethargy.
She did not know horses could get it until a month ago when she met a friend whose horse had contracted it.
“I then had Steele tested and sure enough it came back positive,” she said.
“It’s heartbreaking honestly, and I think a lot of people out there don’t know that it is around.”
Steele will now need to be rested, and his condition closely monitored, for up to 18 months.
Ross River virus hard to diagnose
Experts said it is difficult to say how widespread Ross River virus in horses actually is, because the symptoms can appear similar to other conditions.
“A general lethargy, they don’t want to do any work, they get swelling in their fetlocks, swelling in their legs – particularly their hind legs – and they’ll have some stiffness in their gait,” Dr Stephenson said.
“It requires a blood test to get a confirmation of the virus.”
Some equestrian centres have taken steps such as keeping their horses covered as much as possible to try to protect them, but it is difficult to prevent them being bitten by mosquitoes.
“There have been some cases where several horses that are running together have all got Ross River virus,” said Dr Stephenson.
Dr Stephens said the Australian Animal Research Laboratory at Geelong is looking at surveying other cases where Ross River hasn’t been diagnosed, but horses have similar symptoms.
Researchers in Queensland have also taken preliminary steps towards trying to develop an equine vaccine.
In the meantime, vets urge horse owners to have their animals tested if they display symptoms consistent with the virus.
“The test costs money and some people opt for just the medication and giving their horses rest,” Dr Stephenson said.
“But other people want to know for sure and that’s the only way we can pick up definitive cases.
“Be it dressage, be it some sports events or whatever, it can put the horses out for a whole season.”