A highly fatal insect-borne viral disease of horses and mules, and a mild subclinical disease in donkeys and zebras. It normally occurs in sub-Saharan Africa but occasionally spreads to North Africa, the Iberian Peninsula, and Asia Minor.
The African horsesickness virus is an orbivirus (family Reoviridae) measuring 68– 70 nanometers in diameter. The outer layer of the double-layered protein shell is ill defined and diffuse and is formed by two polypeptides. The highly structured core consists of five structural proteins arranged in icosa-hedral symmetry. The viral genome is composed of 10 double-stranded ribonucleic acid (RNA) segments (genes) ranging in size from 240,000 to 2,530,000 daltons. Nine distinct serotypes which can be distinguished by neutralization tests are known. The virus can be cultivated in various cell cultures, in the brains of newborn mice, and in embryonated hen eggs by intravascular inoculation. Animal virus
African horsesickness is a noncontagious disease that can readily be transmitted by the injection of infective blood or organ suspensions. In nature, the virus is biologically transmitted by midges of the genus Culicoides, such as C. imicola. The disease has a seasonal incidence in temperate regions (late summer to autumn), and its prevalence is influenced by climatic conditions favoring insect breeding (for example, warm, moist conditions in low-lying areas). Mechanical transmission by large biting flies is possible, but plays a much smaller role than biological transmission in the epidemiology of this disease.
There is no specific treatment for this disease. Infected animals should be given complete rest as the slightest exertion may result in death. Stabling of horses at night during the African horsesickness season reduces exposure to insect vectors and hence the risk of disease transmission. Prophylactic vaccination is the most practical and effective control measure. In epidemic situations outside Africa, the causal virus should be serotyped as soon as possible, allowing the use of a monovalent vaccine. However, in endemic regions it is imperative to use a polyvalent vaccine, which should render protection against all nine serotypes of African horsesickness virus. Disease Epidemic