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“This tendency is called antigenic drift, which modifies the virus enough to minimize the efficacy of targeted vaccines.(An antigen is a substance that causes the immune system to produce antibodies, or proteins that aim to eliminate the virus.) Drift occurs because the primary neutralizing antibodies against EIV are directed toward hemagglutinin proteins—these antigens mutate in response to immune pressure.” Many current vaccines against influenza are prepared from inactivated (killed) virus, which Landolt says does not induce a broad immune response.By knowing how EIV changes, it is then possible to be pre-emptive,” says Gabriele Landolt, DVM, MS, Ph D, Dipl.

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The intranasal vaccine is designed to stimulate an immune response in the respiratory tract that neutralizes the entire virus upon administration.“The MLV vaccine is recommended during an outbreak because even a naive horse, one that has never received influenza vaccine, will develop protective immunity within a week of receiving the intranasal MLV vaccine,” says Vaala.

The World Organization for Animal Health (known as OIE due to its former title, Office International des Epizooties) routinely studies which influenza strains are epidemiologically relevant.

ACVIM, a professor of equine internal medicine at the University of California (UC), Davis, have been surveying equine upper respiratory infections.

Veterinarians from more than 300 clinics throughout the United States have sent more than 4,600 samples to the UC Davis testing lab.

Vaala reports some startling news: “In the past three years, we are seeing an increase in EIV cases. almost surpassed the incidence of equine herpesvirus-4, which historically has been the most common upper respiratory tract infection. “In the initial two years of testing, 62% of EIV cases occurred in 1- to 5-year-olds, particularly those in stressful conditions like training,” Vaala says.