Equine herpes virus contained

June 28, 2011

The equine herpes virus, a highly contagious and potentially fatal disease that affected at least 22 horses in California since its outbreak in early May, appears to be contained, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture. [CDFA]

At least two horses were confirmed dead after CDFA officials warned 54 participants from California who attended the National Cutting Horse Association’s Western National Championships in Ogden, Utah, from April 30 to May 8, to isolate and monitor their horses for EHV-1.

The disease spreads quickly in equine circles, mostly through contact with nasal secretions and sneezing and coughing but does not affect humans.

Signs of the disease include high temperatures, nasal discharge, lack of coordination, lethargy and weakness in the horse’s hind quarters.

Outbreaks of the virus are not unusual and can be prevented by isolating infected horses. Horse shows, festivals and classes had been canceled in some Western states following the outbreak.

“Containment of the disease is based on the fact that California has gone more than 14 days from the last clinical case onset date without a confirmed clinical case of EHV-1,” CDFA said in a press release.

“I want to thank California’s horse owners and veterinarians for their prompt and thorough actions to isolate and monitor exposed animals and contain this outbreak of EHV-1,” said state veterinarian Dr. Annette Whiteford.

“We also owe the success of this project in part to the outstanding isolation biosecurity measures implemented by horse facility managers, show/event managers and other professionals who work with and care for horses,” Whiteford added.

California horse owners are being asked to remain vigilant to avoid the risk of disease when horses of unknown health status are commingled at one location.

Consistent, basic biosecurity practices play an important role in reducing risk of exposure to diseases such as influenza, strangles, pigeon fever, or equine herpes virus, CDFA said.

The agency recommends the following the biosecurity measures to minimize further risk of disease:

• Minimize horse nose-to-nose contact with horses of unknown disease status.

• Don’t share equipment including buckets, tack and grooming equipment.

• Avoid using communal water troughs.

• Fill water buckets directly from the faucet to eliminate potential hose contamination.

• Limit human contact between horses or wash hands or use hand sanitizer between horse contacts.

• Prior to returning home from an event, clean and disinfect all equipment, including trailer, clothing, tack grooming supplies.

• Isolate all new horses or horses returning home for a minimum of three weeks. Isolation means no direct contact with other horses or humans and no indirect contact via shared equipment.

• Consult your veterinarian to establish appropriate vaccination for your horse(s). Horse owners are strongly encouraged to consult their veterinarian regarding these steps and others to determine how best to reduce the risk of your horse acquiring an infectious disease.

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As an owner of 5 horses, I am very relieved that this is contained. Not being able to go anywhere has put a damper in my riding schedule.