6 November 2008
By Matthew Kalman
British experts have been called in to identify a mystery disease sweeping across stables in Israel which is being blamed for the death of several horses.
Experts are a at a loss to explain the disease which has left hundreds of horses with high temperatures, listlessness and no appetite.
At least 30 stables have been affected and the entire country has been placed under equine quarantine.
British scientists have been called to investigate what is causing a mystery illness affecting horses across Israel. File photo
All public horse meetings and shows have been cancelled until scientists at the Veterinary Laboratories Agency in Weybridge, Surrey, can pinpoint the cause.
'It's very unusual and although we are working round the clock testing samples from many horses, we still don't know the cause of this outbreak,' said Dr Boris Yakobson, director of the Kimron Veterinary Institute in Rishon Le Zion.
'We have placed all the horses in the country under quarantine and restricted the movement of all horses in Israel for the next 96 hours, until we get the results of the tests back from our colleagues in England.'
He added that he had never seen an outbreak such as this and that the horses seemed to be depressed.
'They are behaving strangely, they seem unhappy and they are off their food,' he said.
'We have heard reports of horses dying, but so far none of them have been brought to our lab for post-mortem examination, so we cannot confirm that this disease is fatal.'
In a nationwide alert sent out today, the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture confirmed the quarantine.
But the government assured people that the disease did not affect humans and could not be transmitted by contact between horses and people.
When the illness was first noticed last week, the ministry clamped a quarantine on several areas of the country.
But the outbreak continued to spread, prompting the dramatic decision to halt all movement of horses in Israel.