EU: Risk from West Nile Fever results in restrictions on US horse imports

The disease that led to aerial insecticide spraying of New York City last summer is behind new, and temporary, restrictions on the importation of horses from the US.

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Originally thought to be the tropical disease St Louis Encephalitis (see related story) and later discovered to be West Nile Fever (see related story), a disease never previously found in the Northern Hemisphere, it is spread by mosquitoes and birds. Humans and horses are the disease’s ‘dead-end’ hosts. Five human deaths in the eastern US are known.

The European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, David Byrne, has announced that horse imports to the EU from the USA will only be accepted once documentation has been shown proving that they have not been resident in New York City or the states of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey (see related story) during the last 15 days and have not been in contact with other horses resident on infected holdings during the last 15 days.

The new restrictions will apply only until 31 January 2000. In announcing the restrictions, Byrne stressed that the measure is precautionary and that the EU public should not be concerned about the risk of human or horse infection.

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