EHV in California's Orange County: Virus Isolated to Single Equestrian Center

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A television news report from Southern California about an EHV outbreak in Orange County

Media in Southern California are following an outbreak of highly contagious Equine Herpes Virus (EHV) in San Juan Capistrano. So am I. The famous seaside town is home to four large equestrian centers that are clustered together in the metro-suburb area that is Orange County. While the outbreak has been contained at one of the centers, all horseowners in the region are acutely aware of the potential danger that an outbreak brings with it.

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The outbreak is now ten days old. On Wednesday, January 11, a single gelding at Rancho Sierra Vista Equestrian Center tested positive for what the state animal health office described as the neuropathogenic strain of Equine Herpes Virus-1. That diagnosis resulted in a quarantine of the facility, which is a large boarding and training center which, according to its web site is home to more than 300 horses, an on-site vet clinic and tack shop, and six arenas. It sounds like a great place!

The next day, January 12, the state announced the second and third cases, which were also suffering from the neuropathogenic form of EHV.

On the third day-- January 13th--the fourth and fifth cases were announced.

From January 14th to the 16th, no new cases were announced; it was also a holiday weekend.

On the 18th, when the state of California resumed its announcements, the outbreak was a week old. The state added three more cases, bringing the total to eight. The state also announced that only one of the eight cases was displaying neurological signs.

Thursday, January 19th: case #9 was added.?On Thursday, the state also noted in its log on the outbreak that "one of the positive horses which initially displayed a fever and limb edema became recumbent and the decision was made to euthanize this horse. Necropsy results as to the cause of the recumbency are pending."

Today was January 20th, the tenth day of the outbreak. Two more horses were diagnosed as positive for the neuropathogenic form of the disease. The total is now up to 11, with one death.

This week, Dr. Kent Fowler of the California Department of Food and Agriculture was in San Juan Capistrano to meet with concerned horse owners, as shown in the video.

The situation in San Juan Capistrano is akin to the situation that developed in Wellington, Florida over the Christmas holidays of 2006-2007. San Juan Capistrano has 1500 sport and pleasure horses clustered together in very large equestrian centers, although there are several prestigious private farms in the area as well. Horses are constantly coming and going. Horses are exposed to each other and to strange horses via wash racks, tie-ups, hotwalkers, shared trailers and rotating horses on the same turnout paddocks. The cribbers may crib on the same fence rails. Horse owners, vets, farriers and grooms work on and around multiple horses without changing their clothes.

In other words, it's probably just like every other equestrian center.

How would EHV travel through your barn?

San Juan Capistrano is known as "the equestrian capital of the west coast". The Chamber of Commerce even has an equestrian advisory council. The San Juan Capistrano Equestrian Coalition has an information page about EHV. The presence of so many knowledgable and caring horse people, and the sense that it truly is a community, are great assets in fighting a virus outbreak.

When I called Rancho Sierra Vista Equestrian Center to inquire about what information from their experience might be transferred to horse owners who read this blog, the woman who answered the phone was not willing to speak. She referred people to her farm's web site, www.ranchoequestrian.com. "We're doing great," she said, before hanging up. "It's way out of proportion. We are complying with the quarantine. The worst thing that is going on is the uninformed people and gossip."

In preparing this report, The Jurga Report went through the 20 available links to equine veterinarians and equine hospitals in Southern California on the web site Southern California Equine Directory, as an experiment. Just for the record: of the 20, only two mentioned that an outbreak of EHV was going on in the region.?Equine Medical Associates in Tustin mentioned the outbreak on Twitter and?Dr. Christi Garfinkel has set up a link to the state veterinary information web page on the home page of her web site.

No others had links to the state information page or mentioned the outbreak or offered EHV or biosecurity information readily to their clients.

What are your thoughts: are people who live in equestrian-friendly communities at an advantage or disadvantage when an infectious disease problem erupts? Have the recent outbreaks of EHV and the publicity about them changed the way that you care for horses, or the way you accept new horses on your property? What do you expect would be your best source of information in the event of an outbreak in your community or region? What can be done to improve communications before there is a problem?

Please use the comment button to share your suggestions or check the Equisearch Facebook page.

And please follow the?California Department of Food and Agriculture's EHV page even if you don't live there.

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