EHV in Delaware: Small State Tackles Big Problem (Again)

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Let's hope 2009 is a disease-free year for tiny Delaware. Last week two Standardbred horses were euthanized there after becoming ill and testing positive for Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1). One horse was at Dovington Training Center and the other at Tana Merah Training Center.

According to a report released yesterday by the state's Department of Agriculture, both premises were inspected last week to ensure that biosecurity protocols are in place, and to review the temperature charts in each barn. Animals in the quarantined barns will continue to have body temperatures monitored every 12 hours for the duration of the quarantine period.

According to Dr. Heather Hirst, Delaware's State Veterinarian, no horses on the farms are showing clinical signs of EHV-1. "While the continued health of animals on both premises is promising, we are certainly not at a point where vigilance can be relaxed. We must maintain the highest level of biosecurity and observation for new cases in order to protect Delaware's equine population and our vital racing industry," said Dr. Hirst.

Dr. Hirst continued, "I want to commend the practicing veterinarians of Delaware, the Delaware Veterinary Medical Association, the Delaware Equine Council, and Dover Downs for their efforts in providing open communication during the EHV event."

Dr. Janice Sosnowski of Delmarva Equine Clinic organized two meetings in December with the help of Dover Downs management. The first meeting was for veterinarians and track officials, and Dr. Amy Johnson of New Bolton Center was invited to speak to the group about EHV-1.

The second meeting was for horsemen, and its intent was to describe best management practices for controlling the spread of EHV-1 in Delaware. Approximately 50 horsemen attended, and detailed handouts were provided describing biosecurity protocols.

Dover Downs, a harness racing track, has implemented new, stricter biosecurity measures to reduce the chance of spread of EHV-1 and other infectious organisms. These new policies include: disinfection of the starting gate after each race, regular disinfection of the receiving (ship in) stalls, and regular disinfection of the paddock.

"I have been truly impressed with the level of cooperation we've encountered among all members of the equine racing industry. This is not something we should take for granted," said Dr. Hirst in the announcement.

While Delaware is a small state, the relative horse population is high. Horses regularly ship from and through and into Delaware from neighboring Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Standardbred racing and breeding stock are particularly mobile in the area.

Delaware began the year with a neurological herpes problem in January, when five farms in Kent County were quarantined after a horse was euthanized because of severe herpes symptoms.