From: AHS equi-link

AFRICAN HORSE SICKNESS (AHS) Research Assistance & Surveillance Project

Kathy Wiles


As some of you may have seen - a ' public announcement' has been made by the Facebook Member's Group ' AHS African horse sickness -The Equine Challenge' - that a "new alternative vaccine for AHS has become available". This is significant news for all horse owners, who have been waiting for years for an up-dated and more effective vaccine, but at the same time has also come as an unexpected 'surprise' to most of us who have known nothing about the development of this vaccine. Many valid questions are being asked as to whether this is ' official, legal and safe' - especially since it has come at the exact time of the year we are supposed to start vaccinating our horses - so they have time to build up stronger immunity in time for AHS season which is normally late November to June.

The Admin's of the Equine Challenge Group have asked us to "please be patient for more news because a public press release will be made available from the Developer within 2 weeks" (giving all these details and answers to our questions) but we feel very concerned that some horse owners may delay vaccinating their horses with the OBP vac in the meantime and in turn put their horses at risk. AHS equi-link would therefore like to offer our opinion on this current news as we feel it is vital that the public are given accurate information and know exactly "which vaccine is which".

The information made public at this stage and only released by the AHS Equine Challenge Group - is that "this new vaccine has been tested and developed by Dr Daan Goosen and available from 'Disease Control Africa' by arrangement and prescription through vets", with contact details included and it's being referred to as the 'DCA Vac". We all have the right to choose how we are going to protect our horses from AHS this summer and a document explaining this vaccine has been posted by them now on the Neigh-Bours Website at ( However we still feel 'in formed decisions' cannot be made without all the relevant facts to consider.


(1) We strongly recommenced that you still vaccinate your horses against AHS with the current OBP (Onderstepoort Biological Products) vaccine, until further 'official' news and/or a press release becomes available. The best time to vaccinate is September to October, allowing time for immunity to build up and 'peak' to co-incide with the hightest risk period between January through to May. Due to shortages and delay in supply of the OBP vaccine in certain areas once again, we recommended you speak to your vet and/or purchase yours without delay. As OBP no longer supply syringes and needles with the vaccine pack,  these have to be purchased separately and need to be the specific ' short needle' type (as the injection has to be given just under the skin - not into vein or muscle). Ensure the cold-chain is not broken at any time before administering, give the first one ASAP and the 2nd one 3 to 4 weeks later.

(2) The 'DCA vac' is not yet registered and although the report indicates "international registration process" is happening, this means that it will  not at this time be accepted as 'official' for passports, or qualify for entry into the Western Cape AHS Control Zone. Horse Owners will have to check with different equine bodies - such as SAEF and FEI - as well as Livery Facilities and Shows, if they would accept entry of horses which have not been vaccinated with the official OBP one - as the laws still apply which oblige us to do so.

(3) Although numerous claims are being made that results have been successful and that "proper clinical trials have been done and the product tested in the field over the last 3 years for efficacy and safety", we find it disturbing that none of our top 'AHS Specialists', State Vets and most Equine Vets we've spoken to, have no knowledge of these trials or vaccine, other than some having "heard or seen the same news".  We therefore feel that until such time as this vital information can be properly verified in a publication by the Developer, as well as documented in a way that allows us to examine results and make intelligent decisions - based on all the facts we need - that these claims still need to be backed up by proper scientific proof, which would be required for registration anyway.

We are very aware that OBP have done very little - if nothing - to update their current AHS vaccine, also that nothing has been done about investigating the claims of "vaccine failure" and that their service and delivery has been appalling over the last few years. We also agree that there is an urgent need for a new vaccine to adequately protect our horses and hope the facts we are presenting here are not seen as ' negative or finding fault' - because we would be thrilled to get official clarification that this new vaccine is in fact what we've been waiting for!

Due to a few different AHS vaccines being discussed  we would also like to make it clear that OBP are completely independent from the other two 'Onderstepoort Facilities' who are involved with AHS and research, because so often these different ' role players' are confused with one another - resulting in unfair criticism usually levelled at simply "OP" (short for Onderstepoort)  which could indicate any of the 3 of them. Apart from OBP (Private State Owned Company) the other two main ' role players' involved in AHS vaccines are:-

(A) The Equine Research Centre (ERC) a private Research Centre headed by Professor Alan Guthrie, situated at the Faculty of Veterinary Science - Onderstepoort - and mostly funded and 'directed' by Racing SA. They are also in the process of developing a new vaccine for AHS and have been doing trials for the last 7 years already - one strain (stereotype) at a time. Initial Scientific publications have been released on the progress made so far ( but at this stage we have been given no indication as to how long we may have to wait for this one to become available and certainly it will not be obtainable until trials are completed and full registration has taken place. ERC also do testing of samples for AHS.

(B) Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute - Agricultural Research Council (OVI-ARC) recently announced that they have finally been allocated some funding from DAFF for AHS Research which includes the development of ' new AHS vaccine' and are currently looking for scientists to work on this project. OVI-ARC are the original 'AHS Research Institute and situated close to both ERC and OBP but again, completely independent, although both OBP and OVI-ARC are ' state owned'. OVI-ARC work under the directive and funding of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and still remain the only 'official Reference Centre' for the OIE in SA - who report on the status of Controlled Animal Diseases' world wide. They have always been and still remain the accredited testing laboratory' for samples, although ERC are a 2nd option to us now  and one big benefit of having samples tested at ERC, is that results are very quick (24 to 48 hrs) and they check for AHS and EEV at the same time, as well as identify the strain (stereotype) involved - which is critical for research.

AHS equi-link have a public 'Facebook Community Page' as well as a Website to keep horse owners up to date with all AHS issues, news and Outbreak Alerts. We include West Nile Virus (WNV) Equine enchephalosis virus (EEV) and other 'new' equine viruses - some of which are currently being researched by Professor Marietjie Venter who also does testing of samples for all these viruses and soon to be importing a WNV vaccine into SA with Pfizer - which is effective against the particular strains identified here. We also have a 'Research Assistance Member's Group' on Facebook for those who would like to join in on discussions about research needs and other problems effecting us, or who may be able to assist with ' data collection' and warning notifications in their different areas.  

Please contact us with any queries you may have and input is welcome. We ask that you please share our links with your friends to spread the word and in turn all help each other to stay aware, up to date with what is happening and assist in saving more horses from AHS!

Thank you and hope your horses stay safe.


Kathy Wiles


AHS equi-link | AFRICAN HORSE SICKNESS Research Assistance and Surveilance Project

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