186 Dead Horses From a "Cruel" & "Devastating" Virus
BANGKOK, Thailand -- For the first time in Thailand, a rapidly
spreading "cruel" and "devastating" virus has killed least 186 horses
by attacking the animals' lungs, causing fever and death within hours.
forces on April 16 guarded checkpoints on highways
to stop horses being transported across the country, and quarantine
animals infected with the African Horse Sickness (AHS) virus.
"Effective immediately, and until
further notice, the U.S. Department
of Agriculture's Animals and Plant Health Inspection Service's
Veterinary Services is placing restrictions on the importation of
equine from Thailand, based on the diagnosis of African Horse Sickness
in multiple equine species of different ages and sexes," the U.S.
department announced on March 31.
A 60-day quarantine was required. The New
York Animal Import Center,
located in Rock Tavern, New York, is the only quarantine location
accepting horses from AHS countries.
"Any semen or embryos from countries
affected with African Horse
Sickness is prohibited," the department said on its website.
officials established a disease control center
deployment teams to test suffering horses, and spray insecticide in
barns and stables.
A hotline was created
so people could inform authorities about any
illegal transportation of horses.
usually take a blood sample from a live
horse, or a spleen specimen at post-mortem, to confirm AHS.
the 186 horses died at the epicenter where the AHS
killed 162 horses in northeast Thailand's Nakhon Ratchasima province,
also known as Korat.
death was reported during March in that province's Pak
district, said Department of Livestock Development director-general
An additional 13
deaths occurred in Prachuap Khiri Khan province 50
miles south of Bangkok on the Gulf of Thailand, plus five in Chon
Buri, three in Ratchaburi, two in Phetchaburi and one in Chaiyaphum
provinces, the government-owned Thai News Agency reported on April 6.
"This disease has just
occurred in Thailand. We've never had it in the
past," Mr. Sorawit said.
"We have to investigate how this virus
got to Thailand," he said,
was deleted from the "AHS-Free Country" list by
Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health on March 27 after Mr.
Sorawit reported the first 42 deaths.
"Unofficial sources report these to be race
horses," said the
International Disease Monitoring unit of Britain's Department for
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on March 31.
Thailand now faces difficulties
exporting horses and other equines to
the European Union and elsewhere -- including for competition in horse
races, shows and other events.
No horses from
Thailand legally traveled to the United Kingdom
December 2019, the monitors said.
The disease can
attack horses, donkeys, mules and zebras, plus camels
and dogs, according to the England-based Pirbright Institute which
develops "novel vaccines for viral diseases of livestock, and is
actively working on a promising vaccine candidate for AHS."
There is no known cure or reliable
anti-inflammatory drugs can alleviate pain or reduce fever.
"It can be spread through
the blood, and infects namely the lungs,
spleen and other lymphoid tissues," the institute said.
include fever, a loss of appetite, and swelling
horses' eyes, lips, cheeks, tongue and neck.
The virus is infectious but not contagious from horse to horse.
It requires transmission by tiny, two-winged flies which resemble gnats.
"AHS is spread by biting midges --
Culicoides -- and dogs can become
infected by eating contaminated horse meat," the Pirbright Institute
Culicoides can also give horses severe, non-fatal skin diseases.
In the past, most of the world's
AHS cases appeared in sub-Saharan
Africa but also in the Middle East, Pakistan, India and Morocco, Spain
Madrid and Lisbon contained its 1980s outbreaks
after severe losses
and elsewhere the disease has also been controlled.
"For several centuries, the devastating
African Horse Sickness has
been a cruel scourge to horse owners," said the National Institutes of
Health (NIH) based in Bethesda, Maryland.
AHS has "a 70% mortality
rate," it said. "The geographic distribution
of the midge vector broadens with global warming and climate change."
In the mid-1800s the virus killed almost 70,000
horses within 10 years
in South Africa.
The most deaths
occurred during 1959-63 across the Middle East
Southwest Asia, killing more than 300,000 horses, the NIH said.
That outbreak was halted thanks to experimental
vaccines and the huge
toll of dead horses, which limited the number of surviving susceptible
Richard S. Ehrlich is a
Bangkok-based journalist from San Francisco,
California, reporting news from Asia since 1978 and winner of Columbia
University's Foreign Correspondent's Award. He co-authored three
non-fiction books about Thailand including "'Hello My Big Big Honey!'
Love Letters to Bangkok Bar Girls and Their Revealing Interviews,"
"Chronicle of Thailand: Headline News Since 1946," and "60 Stories of
Royal Lineage." Mr. Ehrlich also contributed to the chapter
"Ceremonies and Regalia" in a book published in English and Thai
titled, "King Bhumibol Adulyadej, A Life's Work: Thailand's Monarchy
in Perspective." Mr. Ehrlich's "Sheila Carfenders, Doctor Mask &
President Akimbo" portrays a 22-year-old American female mental
patient who is abducted to Asia by her abusive San Francisco
psychiatrist. His newest nonfiction book is "Rituals, Killers, Wars. &
Sex. -- Tibet, India, Nepal, Laos, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka &
New York" available at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B086Y7D48L
His online sites are: