BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s agriculture ministry said on Thursday it will start taking samples from horses along its southern borders to check for African horse sickness after the deadly disease was detected in Thailand.

The highly infectious condition has killed more than 200 horses in Thailand – the first time it has appeared in Southeast Asia.

The disease that only affects horses, donkeys and other equine animals is endemic in sub-Saharan Africa.

China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said there was a relatively high risk the disease would spread as the insects that carry it were already present in China and it had been detected less than 800 km away from the border.

Agriculture departments in Yunnan province and Guangxi region will collect random samples from horses and other equine animals at border crossings and in areas where midges are active, the ministry said.

Thailand began vaccinating some 4,000 horses on Monday and has banned the import and export of horses, zebras and related animals.

(Reporting by Dominique Patton; Editing by Toby Chopra and Andrew Heavens)