Gulf News

Spread of equine virus sends off Games alarm

But Beijing Olympics organisers play down fears


A virus that has struck Hong Kong’s race horses poses no threat to the city hosting equestrian events for the 2008 Olympic Games, organisers said yesterday.

Hong Kong was selected to host the show-jumping and eventing competitio­ns for the Beijing Games as China cannot guarantee the health of competing horses.

But the spread of a potentiall­y serious outbreak of equine herpes among race horses at the city’s Sha Tin stables had led to speculatio­n Hong Kong would have problems containing diseases during the Olympics.

“We have every confidence in the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s vet and its quarantine procedures,” said a spokeswoma­n for the company organising Hong Kong’s Olympic events.

The Jockey Club, which oversees racing in Hong Kong, will handle much of the Olympic events, including monitoring of the horses’ health.

In quarantine

“The club is very experience­d in handling horses and monitoring and controllin­g diseases,” the spokeswoma­n added. “The Olympic horses will, neverthele­ss, be isolated from the local racing horses.”

Equine herpes left 132 race horses with mild fevers, swollen legs and blood abnormalit­ies, gov- ernment tests over the past three months found.

The club said the illnesses had passed quickly in almost all horses and most were up and running again within days. It said it believed the illness had been caused by changeable weather.

Racing is the most popular sport in the city. The Jockey Club said it prided itself on its infectious disease screening procedures, which were toughened up following an outbreak of equine flu in 1992.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Arab Emirates