All races have been cancelled on Thursday Image Getty
08 February, 2019, 14:45
And while money will be lost on a host of fronts without racing in the United Kingdom until at least next Wednesday, the ramifications which the equine flu could have on the thoroughbred racing industry are catastrophic.
The news comes after three horses stabled at Donald McCain's yard in Yorkshire tested positive for equine flu despite being vaccinated. These include the Betfair Hurdle card at Newbury on Saturday, one of the most valuable meetings of the National Hunt season.
Equine influenza is a highly infectious disease of horses, mules and donkeys. It is rarely fatal, though it can lead to complications including pneumonia and some horses can take several weeks, or even months, to recover fully from an infection.
As a result all meetings on Thursday have been abandoned.
In 2007 there was an outbreak of equine flu in New South Wales in Australia.
Asked what a worst-case scenario might still be, with the Cheltenham Festival less than five weeks away and a call set to be made on Monday over a possible resumption of racing dependent on the outcome of tests on racehorses round the country, Rust said: "The worst fears are that we don't contain it quickly".
The virus then spread to reported cases in Britain and Ireland, with the BHA sending an official warning to the horse racing industry on January 19.
Other horses were potentially infected when McCain's stable sent horses to meetings in Ayr and Ludlow on Thursday, which could have exposed a significant number of other runners.
"The action to cancel racing has been viewed as necessary in order to restrict, as far as possible, the risk of further spread of the disease", the BHA said. The BHA is working closely with the Animal Health Trust and will issue a further update tomorrow.
"It takes about three days or so for a horse to start to display symptoms of influenza, so if a horse has shared air space with an infected horse it can take a bit of time to work out if they themselves are now infected".
He said: "We're making preparations for alternative arrangements - so that when racing returns, if there were prep races for horses going to Cheltenham or Aintree, they'll have alternative races in place".
Its effects are still unknown and that's what makes the stance taken by Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) and the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) to continue racing as normal all the more surprising.
Gordon Elliott, John Carr, Shane Nolan, Stuart Crawford, Ronan McNally, Caroline McCaldin and David Christie had runners at Ayr or Ludlow on Wednesday but were able to divert them to isolation yards.
"I'm estimating that there will be 1,500-plus taken overall today", Henderson told BBC Radio 5 live of the swab tests being carried out across Britain by vets.
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