EHV Closes Canadian Vet School Hospital

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Canada's Western College of Veterinary Medicine's Large Animal Clinic at the University of Saskatchewan announced yesterday that as a precautionary measure, a decision has been made to temporarily suspend admission of non-emergency equine patients. The move is designed to control risks related to equine herpes virus type 1 (EHV-1) infection.

WCVM suspended its equine clinical services following admission of two local horses that proved to be suffering from the neurologic form of EHV-1 infection, also called equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy (EHM).

The virus, which is contagious through contact and through aerosols, can be controlled by restricting contact and with stringent decontamination of hospital facilities. EHV-1 can not be transmitted to humans or to other animal species and is not a reportable disease in Canada.

Non-equine activities and services provided by the Veterinary Teaching Hospital and the Western College of Veterinary Medicine are not affected by these precautions.

"We suspended equine admissions at the Large Animal Clinic and placed all of our remaining equine patients under isolation to minimize the risk of further disease transmission among horses," said Dr. Katharina Lohmann, a specialist in veterinary internal medicine at WCVM's Veterinary Teaching Hospital and an associate professor in the veterinary college's Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences.

"In addition, we're working closely with the local riding stable where the first two cases originated and where eight other horses have developed clinical signs. The stable owners have also implemented a quarantine of their facility to control the potential spread of EHV-1 to other farms."

The most common sign among horses infected with this virus is mild respiratory disease during the first two years of life. Much less commonly, infections can result in more severe complications such as abortions in pregnant mares or nervous system disease (EHM).

The clinical signs identified in the two horses admitted to WCVM included fever, limb swelling, musculoskeletal incoordination and urinary incontinence. Affected horses remaining at the stable of origin are being treated supportively and are improving. No deaths have occurred.

Lohmann added that the current plan is to re-open the Large Animal Clinic for regular services once diagnostic testing determines that in-clinic horses pose no risk of virus shedding and once the hospital facilities have been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

"The Veterinary Teaching Hospital, the owners of the stable and the owners of horses involved in the outbreak have taken these precautions to prevent any spread of infection," says Lohmann.