U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Published in Veterinary Record (2010) 166, 22-24.


INFLUENZA A virus (IAV) (family Orthomyxoviridae) is a highly infectious respiratory pathogen of birds and mammals, including human beings and horses (Palese and Shaw 2007). The virus is classified into different subtypes based on the antigenic properties of the haemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA) proteins. Sixteen HA subtypes (H1 to H16) and nine NA subtypes (N1 to N9) have been identified (Fouchier and others 2005). Two subtypes, H3N8 and H7N7, have been isolated from horses. The H7N7 subtype was first isolated from a horse in Czechoslovakia in 1956 (Prague/56) (Sovinova and others 1958), and the H3N8 subtype was first isolated from a horse in Miami, USA, in 1963 (Waddell and others 1963). The H7N7 subtype has not been isolated from horses for three decades and is presumed to be extinct (Webster 1993). The H3N8 subtype is currently a common cause of disease in horses worldwide. In horses, influenza is characterized by an abrupt onset of pyrexia, depression, coughing and nasal discharge, and is often complicated by secondary bacteria infections that can lead to pneumonia and death (Hannant and Mumford 1996). Although H3N8 is a major cause of morbidity in horses throughout the world, information on the seroprevalence of IAV in horses and other domestic animals in Mexico is limited.