An outbreak of equine flu has led to the cancellation of all horse racing meetings in Britain Thursday.
Three vaccinated horses tested positive for the disease in an active racing yard, forcing the sport’s ruling body, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), to call off four scheduled meetings.
There are fears the outbreak could have spread, with horses from the affected stables taking part in race meetings Wednesday.
All British race horses have been vaccinated against the disease, which means the outbreak poses a worrying threat.
“The fact that the cases have been identified in vaccinated horses presents a cause for significant concern over welfare and the potential spread of the disease and the action to cancel racing has been viewed as necessary,” read a statement from the BHA Wednesday.
What is equine flu?
Equine influenza is a highly infectious disease that can affect horses, mules and donkeys across the world.
The disease — which can cause respiratory problems — usually spreads between horses in close contact and can be airborne across short distances.
Although chances of fatality are low in healthy thoroughbreds, young foals and unhealthy horses are in danger of complications.
There are no known consequences for humans exposed to the flu.
“We are contacting trainers of all yards which might conceivably have had contact with horses from the affected yard in order to advise them on bio security measures and to ask them not to move horses,” read an updated BHA statement, released Thursday.
It is unclear how long the ban will be implemented for, with the racing world preparing for the iconic Cheltenham Festival next month.
“We are still in the early stages of assessing the scale and severity of the outbreak,” continued the statement.
“We are working quickly to identify the extent of the infection and will have more information when further test results are returned.”
The meetings called off were at Huntingdon, Doncaster, Ffos Las and Chelmsford.