Journal of Hygiene

Research Article

Possible spread of African horse sickness on the wind

R. F. Sellersa1, D. E. Pedgleya2 and M. R. Tuckera2

a1 Animal Virus Research Institute, Pirbright, Woking, Surrey

a2 Centre for Overseas Pest Research, London W8 55J


Analyses of outbreaks of African horse sickness showed that movement of infected Culicoides midges on the wind was most likely responsible for the spread of the disease over the sea from Morocco to Spain in 1966, from Turkey to Cyprus in 1960, and from Senegal to the Cape Verde Islands in 1943. The pattern of spread of the epidemic in the Middle East in 1960 could have been laid down by the infected midges carried on spells of south-east winds, and analyses of outbreaks in Algeria in 1965 and India in 1960 also suggested windborne spread of the disease. Each spread occurred when the presence of virus, host and vector coincided either with a spell of winds unusual for a particular time of year (Spain, Cyprus, Cape Verde Islands and Algeria) or with a series of disturbances usual at that time of the year (Middle East and India). Inferred flight endurance of the midge varied up to at least 20 h and flight range from 40 to 700 km. Flight occurred when temperatures were likely to have been in the range of 15–25 °C if it was at night or 20 to about 40 °C if it was by day.

It is suggested that likely movements of midges on the wind can be estimated from synoptic weather charts, and should be taken into account when planning control of the disease in the face of an outbreak. Such control includes a ban on movement of horses, vaccination and spraying of insecticide.

The risk of spread to countries outside the endemic areas should be assessed by reference to possible wind dispersal of infected midges.

(Received February 24 1977)