What is Equine Influenza?

Equine Influenza, sometimes referred to as Equine Flu or Horse Flu, is a highly contagious respiratory infection.

An infected horse will show clinical signs similar to those of human flu and will be infectious for about a week. Tens of thousands of horses can be affected by one outbreak. Although rarely fatal, it can have a huge impact on competition and breeding due to restriction of horse movements.

Our scientists monitor flu outbreaks – all over the world - and help develop new Equine Flu vaccines to make sure the world’s horse population is protected from the right flu strains. We’re one of only four OIE reference laboratories in the world which carry out this vital work.

Researching Equine Flu

In order to be best protected from the infection, horses need regular booster vaccinations. However Equine Flu viruses change with time, so this means vaccine strains need to be updated regularly to provide good protection against infection. That’s where the AHT comes in…

The OIE, the veterinary equivalent of the World Health Organisation, collects data from the UK and abroad. The AHT is one of only three OIE reference laboratories in the world for Equine Flu. As part of this, we collaborate with several other laboratories around the world to take part in the selection of suitable vaccine strains each year.

Our global surveillance programme, funded by the Horserace Betting Levy Board, is essential to this. Vets in practice from across the world submit samples of suspected Equine Flu to us for testing – any positive samples are analysed to learn how strains are mutating. The more samples we receive, the more effective our vaccine strain selection can be, in turn giving horses’ better protection. Please see our dedicated website equiflunet.org.uk for more information and advice about equine influenza for horse owners and vets.

Our global surveillance programme is essential to protecting horses from Equine Flu. I’d urge vets across the world to submit samples to us so we can minimise the damage of this highly contagious virus.

Dr Debra Elton
Dr Debra Elton, Head of Virology

Research lead

Dr Debra Elton

Dr Debra Elton

Head of Virology

Debra's teams are currently studying equine influenza virus (EIV) and equine herpes virus type-1 (EHV-1). Debra has over 30 year’s experience in virology, including influenza virus replication, assembly and transmission.

Read Dr Debra Elton's bio