Following is the latest information on the outbreak of EHV-1 (neurological form) and the situation in Valencia (ESP), as well as an update on the GCT/GCL event in Doha (QAT) from the FEI.
The situation onsite in Valencia, although still extremely distressing for athletes and owners, has improved. A total of 83 on-venue horses are showing clinical signs and are being treated, but none of these horses are recumbent and require slings for support. Fifteen horses are currently being treated in external clinics (13 in Valencia and two in Barcelona).
There have been no more equine fatalities at the venue in Valencia since last weekend, but sadly one horse has died at a veterinary hospital in Barcelona and one has died in Germany. Both of these horses had been in Valencia. There are no reports of any further related deaths, but tragically this brings the total number of deaths in this outbreak to six.
FEI Veterinary Manager Gonçalo Paixão remains in Valencia, and will be joined by FEI Jumping Director Marco Fuste, who will provide additional support to the onsite team.
Communications have also improved, with a meeting at the venue today between Spanish Ministry Officials (MAPA), the Organisers, the OC veterinarians, an athlete representative and the FEI treatment team leader. Agreement was reached on roles, treatment protocols and a new plan for separation of horses following requests from athletes and owners for their horses to be grouped together without infringing biosecurity protocols.
Some of the additional temporary stabling delivered to the venue at the beginning of the week was unsuitable for large horses, however, replacement boxes organised by Katharina Offel of the International Jumping Riders Club are being transported to the venue from the Spanish Sunshine Tour after thorough cleaning and disinfection. These are due to arrive in Valencia tomorrow.
In Doha, a German horse at the Al Shaqab venue, which was already in isolation after arriving from Valencia, has tested positive for EHV-1 and has been transferred to the isolation unit of the neighbouring veterinary clinic, together with a second German horse that has returned an inconclusive result and will continue to be retested.
A total of four horses that had been competing in Valencia arrived in Doha on 20 February, having left the Spanish venue earlier in the month. Of the four, two Colombian horses had left Valencia on 7 February, and the two German horses had departed from Valencia on 12 February, eight days prior to the FEI being notified of the EHV-1 outbreak.
As per our communique of 22 February, the FEI identified all 752 horses that had been in Valencia since 1 February and blocked them in the FEI Database, meaning that they cannot enter any FEI Events until they have fulfilled the necessary testing requirements. This included the four horses that had travelled to Doha and the FEI contacted the Organisers to tell them to isolate these horses on the Al Shaqab venue. All four horses tested negative on 22 February, but remained in the isolation stables.
The FEI has been in contact with the Doha Organisers continuously and has conducted an ongoing risk analysis of the situation, together with world-leading epidemiologists. Based on the additional biosecurity measures already in place onsite at Al Shaqab, the fact that all other horses at the venue have returned negative PCR tests over the last two days and subject to a number of mandatory conditions (listed below), the FEI has agreed that this weekend’s competition can go ahead in Doha. However, the FEI reserves the right to cancel the event if there are any changes to the current situation.
The FEI and the Doha organisers invited all onsite athletes, FEI Officials and Team Veterinarians in Al Shaqab to a virtual meeting today to advise them of the conditions under which the event is allowed to continue and to answer questions.
These conditions include:
• Maintaining strict isolation protocols for the two German and two Colombian horses. In addition, the two Colombian horses will not be allowed to compete at the event in accordance with the FEI Veterinary Regulations.
• Temperatures for all horses must be taken at least twice a day by either a groom or veterinarian and recorded on a sheet outside each horse’s stable; random biosecure temperature checks will also be carried out by Veterinarians; FEI Officials will keep a chart recording temperatures of all horses.
• Training times will be adjusted to minimise numbers of horses in the warm-up and training arenas. In order to avoid horses crossing, two separate gates will be used to enter and leave the competition arena. All horse paths will be rearranged to prevent horses crossing each other.
• The two German and two Colombian horses will be transported on separate flights to the other horses competing at the event in Doha.
• The Organiser confirms that athletes and teams are free to decide whether to compete or not and that no consequences/sanctions will be applied against athletes or teams given the exceptional circumstances. This will mean a deviation to GCL Rules on mandatory participation and the composition of teams if required.
• The Organiser will also ensure that no team will penalise/sanction any of its athletes in case of non-participation at the event.
• For the duration of the event, there will be a daily call (or more often if necessary) between the FEI, the Organisers and relevant onsite FEI Officials. Kevin Staut (FRA), President of the International Jumping Riders Club (IJRC) has confirmed that he will also attend this daily call.
• Treatment and testing of horses can take place in the horse’s own stable under supervision of an FEI Official. The treatment boxes will be closed.
“Obviously there is no such thing as zero risk, but for the competing horses in Doha, there is no greater risk of infection than at any other event”, FEI Veterinary Director Göran Akerström said. “Epidemiologically, the risk of further cases amongst other horses in Doha is negligible due to the biosecurity measures that have already been put in place, and the additional mandatory conditions agreed today. Obviously the situation will be monitored very closely and we have the option to cancel the event if things change.”