Mysterious equine illness spreads

HOLD your horses. It hasn't arrived in the Clarence Valley – yet but increasing numbers of horses displaying unusual neurological symptoms across three states have prompted the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) to caution all owners.

In NSW alone there have been 87 confirmed cases of the unidentified illness.

While tests conducted by the NSW Department of Industry and Investment have ruled out Hendra virus, AVA president Dr Barry Smyth believes the illness may be the result of a mosquito-borne disease.

“Diseases associated with mosquitoes are very uncommon in normal years,” he said.

“However, this past summer, we have experienced continual rainfall and flooding across much of the Eastern seaboard and those weather patterns have created ideal conditions for the spread of mosquito-borne diseases.”

North Coast regional veterinary officer Paul Freeman said the illness posed no human health risk and agreed the source of the outbreak could be traced to insect bites.

“Wind speed and direction could be possible assailants in the spread of this disease if insects are indeed to blame,” he said. “There are currently no known cases in the Clarence Valley but I encourage all horse owners to be vigilant.”

Horses affected show symptoms of depression and mild colic. Other symptoms include nervous signs such as increased sensitivity to touch and sound, facial paralysis, difficulty chewing and exaggerated limb movement and weakness.

Notify your vet immediately if your horse displays these signs.

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