Following the National Reined Cow Horse Association Stallion Stakes, two cases of Equine Herpes Virus type-1 (EHV-1) have been diagnosed. EHV-1 is a contagious virus which can cause respiratory disease in young horses, abortion in pregnant mares and occasional neurological disease in older horses.
Both confirmed cases are the respiratory, non-neurological form. One case is located in California and the other case is located in Nevada. Both cases have been placed in quarantine and are taking every precautionary measure.
NRCHA Executive Director Jay Winborn states, "This is an unfortunate situation for everyone involved. At this time, it is unknown how this virus was contracted. The South Point facility went above and beyond their already stringent bio-security procedures, cancelling a show before our event to ensure we were well outside of the incubation period. We also increased our show office check-in protocol by not only verifying six month negative Coggins and 30 day health certificates for all in state and out of state horses, but also keeping physical copies. The South Point Equestrian Center is a top-notch facility, and we appreciate the great lengths they went to make sure the facility was sanitized for our arrival."
NRCHA Veterinarian and Animal Welfare Committee Chairman Dr. Joe Carter would like to reassure everyone that this respiratory, non-neurological form is very similar to the flu. “EHV-1 is more common than most people realize. Keeping your horse up-to-date on vaccines is the best line of defense against EHV-1, along with many other viruses horses battle regularly. If a Stakes competitor is concerned about their horse's health, it is best to consult their local vet and monitor the horse closely," said Carter.
Dr. Carter is communicating regularly with Nevada State State Veterinarian JJ Goicoechea and the South Point Equestrian Center staff for the latest updates.
NRCHA President Corey Cushing noted, "Social media can often increase people's anxiety about EHV-1 and it can contribute to exaggerations of the facts. I would like to remind owners and riders that this virus is nothing new. Common sense, research and simple preventions are very effective against the disease."
Bio-security procedures are always a healthy habit for horse owners and riders to maintain, whether you are at home or at an event. All the major show facilities disinfect horse-shared areas, but it doesn't hurt to disinfect your stalls upon arrival. Whether it's Clorox, Pine-sol or some other disinfectant you buy from your feed store or vet, it is always worth the extra step. You can also use these same disinfectants to clean and sanitize shared tack, equipment and buckets. Making sure your horse is up-to-date on booster shots and minimizing the amount of shared equipment are key preventions. If you are planning to travel with equine in tow, it is best to keep daily records of horse's temperature and keep a close eye on their feed and water intake. All these basic practices can go a long way towards ensuring your horse's healthy and well-being.
From the American Association of Equine Practitioners - www.aaep.org
What is equine herpes virus?
EHV are viruses that are found in most horses all over the world. Almost all horses have been infected with the virus and have no serious side effects. It is unknown what causes some horses to develop the serious neurological forms that may be fatal. To date, nine EHVs have been identified worldwide. Three of these, EHV-1, EHV-3 and EHV-4, pose the most serious health risks for domesticated horses. Equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy (EHM) is another name for the neurologic disease associated with equine herpesvirus (EHV) infections.
How does EHV-1 spread?
EHV-1 is contagious and spread by direct horse-to-horse contact via the respiratory tract through nasal secretions. This disease can also be spread indirectly through contact with physical objects contaminated with the virus, such as water buckets, tack, trailers, etc. The virus can be airborne, although it is difficult to establish how far it can spread in this manner. It is estimated to be viable for up to seven days in the environment under normal circumstances, but may remain alive for a maximum of one month under perfect environmental conditions.
What are some of the signs of EHV?
After infection, incubation period may be as short as 24 hours. Incubation is typically 4-6 days, but can be longer. EHV-1 typically causes a biphasic (two-phase) fever, peaking on day one or two, and again on day six or seven. With respiratory infections there is often nasal discharge, but not much coughing. With the neurologic form there are typically minimal respiratory signs, with fever (rectal temperature greater than 102 degrees F) being the only warning sign. Neurologic disease appears suddenly and is usually rapidly progressing, reaching its peak intensity within 24 to 48 hours from onset of neurologic signs. Clinical signs of the neurologic disease may include nasal discharge, incoordination, hind limb weakness, loss of tail tone, lethargy, urine dribbling, head tilt, difficulty balancing and inability to rise.