x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

De Kock: Let us move horses in safe period

There have been numerous outbreaks of African Horse Sickness since 1997, but trainer Mike de Kock believes it is safe to export horses from South Africa during the winter season.

An outbreak of African Horse Sickness (AHS) swept through the Middle East in 1959-60, up through Lebanon, Iraq and into Pakistan and India, killing an estimated 300,000 horses. Such history may explain the UAE's caution in its effort to control the disease.

"It is a very deadly virus for horses and would have a devastating effect on the UAE equine industry," said Dr Anthony Kettle, the head of the veterinary department of the Dubai Racing Club. "We would expect in excess of 95 per cent of horses exposed to the virus to die."

Trainer Mike de Kock believes it is safe to export horses from South Africa during the winter season.

There have been numerous outbreaks of AHS since 1997, when the EU first permitted the export of horses from South Africa's AHS-controlled area. This year's outbreak led to 604 cases before it was officially declared over on June 23.

Much like the malaria mosquito, the Culicoides midges (known as vectors) that are involved in the transmission of AHS die out during the South African winter, from July to October, which would allow a window for export of horses.

In the past, South Africa quarantined horses for 60 days, 40 of which were under protected conditions that requires horses to not exercise until two hours after sunrise and two hours after sunset. The process is ratified by the World Organisation for Animal Health, and South Africa has exported nearly 1,000 horses in this fashion with no repercussions.

"I feel South Africa's biggest problem is that we have not educated people about this disease," De Kock said. "I would love to have a congress of this in Dubai. I don't believe there is any scientific reason why they cannot take our horses directly out of South Africa right now, as it is a period of non-vector activity."

There are Culicoides midges present in the UAE that are capable of transmitting both AHS and Bluetongue disease, which also affects livestock. Humans cannot contract AHS.

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