Disease kills 100 horses in midlands, northern KZN

2011-03-24 00:00

AN estimated 100 horses have died in KwaZulu-Natal from African horse sickness (AHS) since February 20, the African Horse Sickness Trust announced yesterday.

The sickness is reported to be prevalent in several towns in the province, including Dundee, Estcourt, Mooi River, Vryheid, Newcastle, Ladysmith, Nottingham Road and Nquthu.

The number of horses that have died nationally has been put at 450, the worst-affected areas being Pretoria north and west and Bapsfontein in Gauteng, Harrismith, Vrede and Memel in Free state, Mamre in Western Cape and Kuruman and Hotazel in the Northern Cape.

The trust’s website describes the disease as a highly infectious non-contagious, vector-borne viral disease affecting all equine species.

AHS does not spread directly from one horse to another, but is transmitted by the Culicoides midge, which becomes infected when feeding on other infected horses.

It occurs mostly in warm rainy seasons when midges are plentiful, and disappears after frost, when the midges die.

Most animals become infected in the period associated with sunset and sunrise, when the midges are most active.

Once the horse has been infected it usually has very high fever — of up to 41ºC — and has difficulty in breathing, with its mouth open and its head hanging down.

A frothy discharge may pour from the nose and there is a sudden onset of death. The death rate is estimated at 90%.

Douglas Welsh of the African Horse Sickness Trust said the disease is devastating the horse industry in the country.

Menzi Buthelezi, the chairperson of the KZN Rural Horse Riding Association, said one member had lost more than eight horses since mid-February. Among them was a horse for which the member had paid more than R30 000.

Buthelezi said, however, that the disease is on the decline.

“With the cold winter air coming in, the disease is slowing down because the carrier of the disease is not very active during the winter conditions.”

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