Mass vaccination of horses in Thailand
Risk of Singapore horses getting African Horse Sickness is low but Turf Club is in close communication with animal health body
Thailand began vaccinating some 4,000 horses on Monday in a bid to contain the spread of the deadly African Horse Sickness (AHS), a disease that affects only horses and other equine animals.
More than 200 horses in seven provinces have died since the outbreak was first reported earlier this year. It is the first time the highly infectious AHS virus, transmitted by insects, has appeared in South-east Asia.
Horse owners in north-eastern Nakhon Ratchasima province have installed mosquito nets on stables . They are also conducting regular temperature and health checks, while putting sick horses under quarantine.
The Thai government has also banned the import and export of horses, zebras and related animals.
Veterinarians say, if the disease cannot be contained by the mass vaccination, it could wipe out all 11,800 horses in Thailand, where they are kept mostly for racing and leisure riding for tourists and private owners.
"Without any prevention, 10 out of 10 horses will contract the virus... nine out of 10 sick horses will die from it," said Aree Laikul, a veterinarian from Kasetsart University's Faculty of Veterinary Medicine who is helping the vaccination drive.
There have been no reported cases of AHS in humans, and it is not related to the Covid-19 pandemic .
AHS is endemic in the central tropical regions of Africa, from where it spreads regularly to Southern Africa and occasionally to North Africa, according to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
When contacted yesterday, the Singapore Turf Club (STC) said the AHS outbreak in Thailand is being closely monitored by the OIE, with world experts involved in monitoring and advising countries in the region on the best practices to undertake to contain the outbreak.
"We are in close communication with advisers from OIE and NParks. Currently, there are no reported cases in Malaysia and the horse transport between Thailand and Malaysia has been suspended, as has any horse movement into Singapore," said an STC spokesman.
"The risk to the horses in Singapore is considered low at this stage, given our precautionary measures and the physical distance between Thailand and Singapore.
"As Malaysia borders Thailand, they will most likely be undertaking extra surveillance measures which will act as an 'early warning' system for Singapore."
The spokesman added that vaccination is recommended only in countries where there is currently an outbreak, as there are inherent risks with vaccination that outweigh their benefits in a horse population that has not been exposed to AHS.
"We are, however, prepared with the contacts for supply of the correct vaccination strain if the risk increases and vaccination is deemed necessary," he said.
There are about 1,100 thoroughbreds stabled at Kranji. - REUTERS
Additional reporting by Tan Thean Loon