A new, rapid detection diagnostic test for African Horse Sickness (AHS), developed by the Equine Research Centre could be the catalyst for significant changes to the existing protocol that binds horses being exported from South Africa to extraordinary lengths of time spent in quarantine in various parts of the world before they reach their final destinations.
However, negative perceptions, misinformation, diplomatic red tape and arguably even surreptitious efforts to prolong South African racing’s ascension to the world stage will remain problematic for the time being.
Peter Gibson, CEO of Racing South Africa, says that the while the new test, knows as Real Time PCR is fast, efficient and reliable (tests are also being developed to detect Piroplasmosis and Equine Encephalosis), a validating procedure encompassing four stages is required for international trade purposes.
This process, coupled with the need for extensive lobbying, negotiations with the OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) and the willingness of importing countries to negotiate, further complicate an issue that by its very nature could drag on forever unless access can be gained to the higher ranks of decision-makers.
Gibson’s projection for clear and measurable results is a time frame of 2-5 years, but every effort is being made to advance the process.
The wheels are in motion and proposed changes to the OIE AHS code will possibly be tabled in May 2011 subject to international opinion (154 member countries), if not then in 2012. If adopted, a reduction in quarantine periods will be subject to Real Time PCR Test being validated.
The initial design (Stage 1) and optimization (Stage 2) of the validation process have been completed and published, Gibson said.
The standardization and in-house validation (Stage 3) is currently approximately 80% complete and has involved the establishment of the test within South African laboratories.
The final validation (Stage 4) involves running tests in other international laboratories and collaboration is being sought with Dubai and Spain.
The South African Export Protocol was developed on the principles described in the OIE’s 1992 Code Chapter on AHS.
Revisions to the AHS Code and Surveillance Chapters became the primary focus of the SA Veterinary Services which was assisted by members of the Import Export Working Group comprising Professor Alan Guthrie and Dr Beverley Zietsman, who also chairs the Import/Export Working Group that does much of the groundwork in respect of horse exports.
Governments negotiate protocols and regulations but are supported and motivated by factions of trade and the private sector.
Gibson explained that:
The first round of changes was achieved in May 2008 when the General Assembly of the OIE adopted revisions to the AHS Code.
The additional changes being considered ahead of next year’s General Assembly are summarized as follows:
• Official recognition by the OIE of South Africa’s AHS Free Zone
• Greatly reduced period of suspension following an outbreak of AHS in the AHS Controlled Area
• Once the Real Time PCR Diagnostic Test has been validated for international trade, to dramatically reduce the length of Pre-export quarantine (PEQ)
• Subject to a reduced PEQ, to negotiate with importing countries to export from a vector-proof facility in Johannesburg under total lock-up conditions
For up to date reports of suspected cases of AHS this season, please go to the AHS Trust website: www.africanhorsesickness.co.za.
“With so many significant changes in the pipeline, we can ill afford an outbreak and all exporters are urged to be conservative when moving horses into the AHS Controlled Area,” Gibson noted.
KENILWORTH QUARANTINE STATION
PROVISIONAL EXPORT SCHEDULE TO DECEMBER 2011
KQS Export March 2011 (FULLY BOOKED)
Start Free Zone Residency (20 Days): Wednesday 12 January 2011
Start Pre-Export Quarantine (40 Days): Tuesday 01 February 2011
Departure for EU: Sunday, 13 March 2011
KQS Export April 2011 (FULLY BOOKED)
Start Free Zone Residency (20 Days): Saturday 26 February 2011
Start Pre-Export Quarantine (40 Days): Friday 18 March 2011
Departure for EU: Wednesday, 27 April 2011
KQS Export June 2011
Start Free Zone Residency (20 Days): Tuesday 12 April 2011
Start Pre-Export Quarantine (40 Days): Monday 02 May 2011
Departure for EU: Saturday, 11 June 2011
KQS Export July 2011
Start Free Zone Residency (20 Days): Friday 27 May 2011
Start Pre-Export Quarantine (40 Days): Thursday 16 June 2011
Departure for EU: Tuesday, 26 July 2011
KQS Export September 2011
Start Free Zone Residency (20 Days): Monday 11 July 2011
Start Pre-Export Quarantine (40 Days): Sunday 31 July 2011
Departure for EU: Friday, 09 September 2011
KQS Export October 2011 (Dubai International Racing Carnival 2012)
Start Free Zone Residency (20 Days): Thursday 25 August 2011
Start Pre-Export Quarantine (40 Days): Wednesday 14 September 2011
Departure for EU/Dubai: Monday, 24 October 2011
KQS Export December 2011 (Singapore Turf Club/HK Jockey Club)
Start Free Zone Residency (50 days Singapore) Friday 09 September 2011
Start Free Zone Residency (20 Days): Sunday 09 October 2011
Start Pre-Export Quarantine (40 Days): Saturday 29 October 2011
Departure for EU/Singapore: Thursday, 08 December 2011
1. ALL DATES SUBJECT TO CHANGE
2. ALL SHIPMENTS DEPENDENT ON DISEASE STATUS
3. ALL SHIPMENTS SUBJECT TO CHARTER VIABILITY
4. TRANSPORT SOLUTION PROVIDED
Mike de Kock comments: “We’re seeing progress, well done. Keep your foot on the pedal, Peter!”