EHV-1 Quarantine Imposed at Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Virginia

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Virginia state officials have imposed a quarantine of the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center's facilities at Morven Park in Leesburg, Virginia, effective today (Tuesday, February 20). Officials there suspected infection of the neurologic form of equine herpesvirus (EHV-1) in three hospitalized horses. No additional patients will be admitted to the hospital until further notice. Hospital officials expect the quarantine to last anywhere from 14 to 28 days.

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"Based on the clinical signs and one positive test from the first horse with neurologic signs, we are treating this as an infection with EHV-1. We are taking extraordinary precautions and following the most stringent procedures possible in order to protect the horses in our care as well as the general equine population," said Dr. Nat White, Jean Ellen Shehan Professor and Director of the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center. "The health and safety of our patients is our first priority.

According to White, a horse that was brought to the hospital on Wednesday, February 7, to be treated for an unrelated emergency subsequently developed a fever and signs of nervous disease. The horse was immediately isolated in the hospital's Biosafety Level 2 isolation unit. Initial PCR testing revealed that the horse was positive for the EHV-1 virus. "Though this test can have false positive results, we are treating this as a true infection," said White.

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In addition, hospital officials elected to impose a voluntary quarantine of patients in the area of the hospital where a risk of exposure was possible. These horses were promptly separated from the rest of the hospital's equine population in designated isolation barns.

As of the morning of Tuesday, February 20, two additional horses being treated at the center for unrelated problems developed fever and neurological symptoms leading state officials to deem necessary an immediate quarantine of all hospital facilities.

The center has always followed strict biosafety procedures governing patient care, movement in and out of the isolation unit, and cleaning of stalls between each horse occupancy in order to prevent the spread of infectious diseases," said Dr. Martin Furr, Adelaide C. Riggs Chair in Equine Medicine at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center. "However, this quarantine, which is the first that we've had since the center was opened in 1984, has been implemented to ensure that there is no chance of spreading the virus."

EHV-1 is a reportable disease and the state veterinarians of Virginia and Maryland were notified on Monday, February 19. The mandate to quarantine the facilities was issued by Virginia State Veterinarian's Office on the afternoon of Tuesday, February 20. Referring veterinarians and owners of all horses that may have been exposed to the disease have also been informed.

"I would like to emphasize that though these are not confirmed cases of EHV-1 by virus isolation or serology, we are implementing appropriate measures to prevent the spread of any contagions," said White. "We are taking this situation very seriously and will do whatever is necessary to safeguard the well-being of our patients."

In 2002, four horses with EHV-1 in the nearby town of Middleburg were euthanized.

Virginia Tech's Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center is a Leesburg-based full-service equine hospital that is owned by Virginia Tech and operated as one of three campuses that comprise the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.

More information is available in an article in the region's newspaper, Loudoun (VA) Times Mirror.

Photo of Dr. Nat White provided by Marion duPont Scott Equine Center.

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