Appendix 11 Industry-led Protocol for the Control of Contagious Equine Metritis in Great Britain
Following an extended consultation between government veterinary authorities and the equine industry a new industry-organised contagious equine metritis (CEM) control protocol was confirmed in 2021 following an initial pilot scheme set up in 2018. There will be no change in the arrangements for control of CEM in Northern Ireland. CEM remains a notifiable disease throughout the UK.
In 2013, as part of the coalition government’s deregulation initiative (the so-called ‘red-tape challenge’) the notifiable disease status of CEM was reviewed. The Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association, the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) and others in the equine industry highlighted the potential negative effect on compliance with the HBLB Code of Practice and trade risks associated with changing CEM’s status. It was subsequently agreed that CEM would retain its notifiable disease status, but that more responsibility for the control of the disease in Great Britain should be undertaken by the equine industry.
New control protocol
The principle of the new control protocol is to encourage compliance with the Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB) Code of Practice for the disease and involve the APHA only in cases of non-compliance. Under the pilot protocol, horse owners or their representatives in Great Britain will be able to elect to have most of the work dealing with both suspect and confirmed cases of CEM carried out by equine veterinary surgeons on an approved list, rather than by APHA veterinary surgeons. These approved veterinary surgeons will follow the CEM control guidance provided in the HBLB Code of Practice (http://codes.hblb.org.uk/index.php/). If the owner does not accept this invitation, follow-up action will be taken by the APHA under the Infectious Diseases of Horses Order 1987, including the possible serving of animal movement restrictions and making appropriate charges. For those that accept this invitation,a specialist advisor to the equine industry will coordinate the activities of the approved vets, receiving reports, initiating tracings off the premises and being responsible for any epidemiological investigations. BEVA hold a list of suitably qualified equine veterinary surgeons approved to undertake the work (‘the approved list’). Approval is based on their Official Veterinarian (OV) status relating to export certification, their current stud experience and their knowledge of the HBLB Code of Practice in relation to the provisions of the new CEM control protocol in Great Britain.
Role of approved vets
Where the presence of T. equigenitalis (the CEM organism, CEMO) is suspected by a private BEVA approved laboratory on routine samples taken in Great Britain by a stud vet and confirmed by the APHA reference laboratory, disease will be confirmed in the normal way by the Chief Veterinary Officer in the country where the disease has been identified. With the agreement of the owner or their representative, the specialist advisor will arrange for a veterinary surgeon from the BEVA approved list to deal with the outbreak. The affected stud’s attending veterinary surgeon may act as the approved veterinary surgeon so long as he or she is on the approved list and is content to do so.
The approved veterinary surgeon will visit the premises to carry out any necessary treatment and further sampling and to assess compliance with the HBLB Code of Practice and evaluate any need for tracings. In complying with the HBLB Code, voluntary movement and breeding restrictions will be implemented immediately and, where necessary, tracings will be initiated by the AHT on the advice of the approved veterinary surgeon. Formal action by the APHA under the Infectious Diseases of Horses Order 1987, such as the serving of movement restrictions, will not ordinarily be necessary unless the owner fails to meet the requirements of the HBLB Code of Practice, as assessed by the approved veterinary surgeon. The costs of the subsequent treatment and resampling by the approved veterinary surgeon will continue to be borne by the owner in accordance with usual practice. If Defra/ APHA deal with the outbreak, they may make charges.
Inclusion on the BEVA Approved List
Veterinary surgeons in Great Britain who would like to support the industry by applying to join the list of equine veterinary surgeons available to investigate any future cases of CEM in England, Scotland or Wales are requested to contact BEVA at firstname.lastname@example.org BEVA will provide an application form that will ask the veterinary surgeon to confirm that they have the necessary expertise to go on the list. There will be no extra training required, nor will BEVA make any charge. Veterinary surgeons do not have to be BEVA members to apply to join the approved list.
This pilot scheme will be reviewed two years after commencing or earlier, should there be a CEM outbreak in GB during these two years.