Welcome to winter! The unusually warm weather in November and December in many states has meant that we haven't had our usual outbreaks of equine herpes virus (EHV). The disease usually erupts around Thanksgiving when horses are being transported to new quarters for the winter or going to be bred or to foal out.
But today an announcement was made that a mare from Rockingham County in North Carolina has tested positive for the neurological form of equine herpes virus. The horse community's awareness and the veterinary profession's organization have moved forward in great leaps in the past few years, and the North Carolina case has been isolated and does not appear to be a risk to other horses at the moment.
Nevertheless, we will report on this to make people aware of the situation, of the disease, and of the fact that winter is usually a high-risk time for horses to show signs of EHV infection. So even if you live far from North Carolina, consider this a shot over the bow: horse diseases can and probably will be in the news this winter.
The following announcement is from Dr. Tom Ray, director of Livestock Health Programs for?the state of North Carolina, who notes that this is the first case of EHV-1 reported in his state.
RALEIGH - The neurologic form of equine herpesvirus, EHV-1, has been confirmed in a North Carolina horse. The horse, from a Rockingham County stable, was taken to the College of Veterinary Medicine at N.C. State University upon becoming ill, and directly quarantined to the equine isolation unit of the hospital.
"We have been fortunate that we've not seen this particular form of this common virus in North Carolina to date, even though it has been increasing in frequency throughout the country for almost a decade now," said State Veterinarian David Marshall. "We are working with the College of Veterinary Medicine and with the stable to implement biosecurity measures and minimize the risk of further spread."
EHV-1 is highly contagious among horses, but poses no threat to humans. It most often causes respiratory infections in young horses, but different strains can also pose neurologic problems, which the affected N.C. horse exhibited. The virus also can cause abortion in pregnant horses or neonatal death. Vaccines are available that protect horses from most forms of EHV-1, but not from the strains that cause neurologic problems.
Biosecurity measures to protect horses include quarantining facilities that are suspected to house EHV-1-exposed horses. Water and feed buckets should be disinfected and not shared. Stalls and trailers should also be cleaned and disinfected regularly to prevent the spread of disease. New additions or those returning from shows and exhibitions should be isolated for 3 weeks prior to comingling with other horses upon returning home. Horse owners should also talk with their veterinarian to determine a vaccine schedule.
More information about EHV-1 and how to prevent the virus can be found at?www.ncagr.gov/vet/Disease Alerts.htm. Questions regarding College of Veterinary Medicine protocols may be referred to David Green at 919-513-6662.