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We have recently (January 2015) changed our flu vaccine to the new Proteq flu. Proteq flu contains the most up to date virus strains in any equine flu vaccine available in the UK. Watch out because some other vaccines only contain old strains of the virus.
It would appear that flu is rife in the UK at the moment with cases being diagnosed accross the UK.
Like influenza in other species the flu virus is constantly mutating. New strains of the virus are identified by where they were first discovered and we actually have two named after us A/eq/Aboyne/1/08 and A/eq/Aboyne/2/08, even though neither case was in Aboyne! These originate fom a subgroup called Florida clade 2. All recent UK outbreaks have been from the Florida clade subgroups and it is important to use vaccines with the latest available vaccine strains in.
We are currently using a recombinent virus vaccine, “Proteq Flu”. This takes a small part of the flu virus particle and adds it into another virus, in this case canary pox, which acts like a live virus to stimulate immunity but cannot produce clinical disease. Different strains of influenza are included in the vaccine to give better protection. Proteq Flu is the only vaccine in the UK with Florida Clade 1 and Clade 2 subgroups. This is the only vaccine with a florida clade 2 subgroup represented despite the OIE recommending that all flu vaccines should contain both since 2010.
To ensure good immunity horses need a primary course of two vaccinations 4 – 6 weeks apart followed by a third dose about 6 months later then annual boosters thereafter. Don’t forget to get the boosters done on time because for many competitive disciplines a booster must be given within a calender year (same date each year or sooner!). If your horse competes at FEI level then a more frequent vaccination schedule is required.
With horses coming and going from Aberdeenshire all the time we are vulnerable to an outbreak. However modern flu vaccines have generally been very effective at preventing disease or minimising effects.