Thailand began vaccinating thousands of horses on Monday to try to contain the spread of African Horse Sickness (AHS), a deadly illness that only affects horses.
More than 200 horses in seven provinces have died since the outbreak was reported earlier this year, according to government figures.
AHS is transmitted by insects and can cause fevers of over 39 Celsius, difficulty breathing and bleeding in the eyes.
Horse owners in the northeastern Nakhon Ratchasima province – an area with the highest horse population in the country – have draped mosquito nets on stables, conducted regular temperature and health checks, and placed sick horses under quarantine, as recommended by the government.
The government has also banned the import and export of horses and related animals, such as zebras.
All horses in the country could die
Aree Laikul, a veterinarian from Kasetsart University’s faculty of veterinary medicine, warned if the disease cannot be contained by the mass vaccination of almost 4,000 horses in the affected area, it could potentially spread and wipe out all 11,800 horses in the country.
Aree said the government’s current strategy is to conduct blood tests on all horses in affected areas and vaccinate those that have not been infected. She added that horses still need to be protected from insects for up to 21 days after being vaccinated to develop immunity – and noted that time frame was being extended to 30 days to be safe.
The Thai government has previously said the outbreak is not related to the coronavirus pandemic.
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