The aim is for horse export to commence again September 15th after a four month pause because of the outbreak of contagious cough disease in horses.
There are still sick horses in the country and it seems like that the infection keeps on coming up in places such as fenced in areas like stallion enclosures and places where horses are grouped together. This is especially the case where sick horses have been in contact with horses receptive to the disease. Clearly, horses that have been sick and gained their health back can become infected again. Many indications point to the fact that the horse stock is slowly but surely building up resistance against this disease and that the indirect infection is not as powerful as it was before.
Increased knowledge about the cause of the disease as well as improved resistance to it presents the possibility to prevent the possibility of infection and to keep the danger of infection within limits within certain groups.
Research at respected laboratories here in Iceland as well as abroad firmly point to the fact that the bacteria named Streptococcus Zooepidemicus is the primary and possibly the only cause of the disease. This bacterium has been bread from all horses with cough and colored rheum from their noses. So far it has not been possible to link this disease to any known viral horse disease, and also no evidence is pointing towards a viral disease nor that there is an immunosuppressant causing the disease. Any such reasoning cannot be supported.
This type of bacteria is known to cause disease in horses all over the world, although seemingly it has never caused an epidemic of this magnitude. It is a known fact that the gestation period of this disease is long so it can take up to 3-4 weeks until it becomes clear whether there is an infected horse within the group. The rules which are now being presented are necessary in order to minimize the danger of infected horses leaving the country. It is right to mention, that in spite of the fact that infected horses were within the group of horses exported May 10th last, they did not infect other horses in their new places of dwelling.
Infection caused by Streptococcus Zooepidemicus is not among the diseases which should be reported to the International Health Organization of Animals and there has been no prohibition of export of horses from Iceland. Countries within the European Union make the demands, as they always have, that horses entering the European Union are without any symptoms and the same applies to all the horses that they have had interaction with for the previous 30 day period (for USA there is a 60 day period). Therefore the danger of spreading the disease is kept at a minimum risk.
The present conditions, regarding the infection, are such that the horses which are to be exported need to be kept in quarantine at the individual farms, somewhat like group quarantine at each farm, for at least a 30 day prior to export (for USA 60 day quarantine). Both quarantine and the supervision of the horses is the responsibility of the owner or possessor of the horses. For further safety, the condition of quarantine facilities and the general health of the horses will be evaluated by a vet before they are exported abroad. A statement from the owner/possessor and vet confirming that the horses do not have any symptoms and that the quarantine rules for the horses have been followed, shall accompany each horse going abroad and this is to be sent to the vet in each province on a special form. Those forms can be found at the Food Institute website and at the location of the exporters themselves. On these forms, there are more detailed explanations regarding the rules of the quarantine. The vet in the region of the Gullbringu- og Kjós province will give further details.