The chance of carrying African Horse Sickness to an overseas destination is about ‘One Billion To One’.
— Mike de Kock / Trainer
David Thiselton

David Thiselton

Mike de Kock said at the post Vodacom Durban July press conference that he would be reluctant to put Igugu through the 150 odd days of quarantine in four different countries (including Dubai), as pertaining to the prevailing export protocol, in order to get her to the 2012 Dubai International Racing Carnival.

However, Peter Gibson, CEO of Racing South Africa is hopeful that a solution might be found that would cut the quarantine time to less than half that. De Kock’s victory speech last Saturday included a lambasting of South Africa’s trading partners. He pointed out that African Horse Sickness (AHS) was not a contagious disease and the chances of carrying it to an overseas destination were about “one billion to one”.

In fact Professor Alan Guthrie, the director of the Equine Research Centre at Onderstepoort, has developed a new diagnostic test for AHS that returns a “yes” or “no” answer for the existence of the virus within two hours of receiving a sample. This Real Time PCR test is yet to be accredited by the the OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health), although it is more accurate than the previous test, which took three weeks to return a result.

Gibson added that it should also be noted that there has never been a case of AHS in South Africa’s AHS Free Zone and Kenilworth Quarantine Station was a world leader in vector-protection. De Kock illustrated how ridiculous our protocol was by saying it would be the equivalent of banning South African sportsman from playing overseas due to a risk of passing on Aids and concluded by saying that our trading partners should “hang their heads in shame.”

A topical example of such a trading partner would be Australia. Of the four Grade 1 winners on Saturday all of Igugu, Happy Archer and Fighting Warrior were bred in Australia, illustrating the support we give their industry. South Africa accepts Australia’s horses directly, despite deadly diseases like Hendra existing in parts of that country.

Yet, Australia requires that South African horses spend 60 days in Europe before entering Australia. The European protocol requires that South African horses spend 60 days in the African Horse Sickness Free Zone in the Cape, meaning a South African horse being exported to Australia would take over 120 days to reach its destination.

The current even more strenuous export protocol for our horses was the consequence of an outbreak of AHS in the AHS Surveillance Zone in February, meaning exports from Kenilworth Quarantine Station were temporarily suspended.

The South African Veterinary Services reported the last confirmed case on 3 May and officially declared the outbreak over on 23 June or 40 days after the last case which is in line with the OIE’s accepted infectious period for AHS.

Currently South African horses would be required to spend over 140 days en route to Dubai, including quarantine periods in Johannesburg (21 days), Mauritius (90 days) and Europe (30 days) and a further week or two in Dubai post arrival. This follows the EU’s temporary embargo on exports from South Africa, potentially for a period of two years, as dictated by their current legislation.

However, Gibson revealed that South Africa has officially applied to the UAE and other trading partners, including Qatar and Singapore, for a limited number of direct shipments from Cape Town’s AHS Free Zone during the vector-safe time of the year (winter months) when the culicoides midge which transmits the virus has been killed off and, therefore, the risk of importing the virus had gone.

The conditions of the application, or equivalence thereof, are based on the 2010 OIE AHS Code which provides for exporting from an infected country or zone and apart from the normal guarantees would include the application of the new test formulated by Professor Guthrie in conjunction with the existing tests accredited by the OIE Manual for International Trade.

This would reduce the quarantine period to 60 days, excluding post arrival quarantine in Dubai, and allow horses destined for the 2012 Dubai International Racing Carnival to remain in training throughout the period.

Extract from Gold Circle