by Fran Jurga | 2 April 2010 | The Jurga Report at Equisearch.com
It seems like whenever it is time for seasonal migrations of horses up and down the highways, pockets of contagious diseases show up in the news. In late fall and early spring, mares are in transit to and from breeding farms and race and show horses are changing hands and transferring to different training centers and racetracks. Even this far north and even with Interstate 95 closed because of floods, there are a lot of horse vans and trailers on the highway.
Are they full of sick horses? Probably not, but the stress of travel and the exposure to new surroundings can set things in motion.
So it was no surprise today, really, that the New Jersey Department of Agriculture's Division of Animal Health announced the quarantine of five Monmouth County farms and one Gloucester County farm in that state, as an investigation continues into a possible Equine Herpes virus (EHV) outbreak there.
Two horses in Farmingdale, New Jersey have been euthanized; they showed clinical signs consistent with the neurological form of EHV-1, and another died with similar signs. Two of those horses had presumptive positive tests for the disease and confirmatory testing continues.
While EHV is not harmful to humans, the neuropathogenic form of the disease is often fatal to horses and is spread quickly from horse to horse. Any outbreak of EHV is cause for alarm.
The additional locations were placed under quarantine because of high risk contact with the farm where the sick horses were. To date, no horses at those premises have shown signs of the virus.
Investigations were also conducted at Camelot Auction Company in Middlesex County, where horse auctions are held regularly, and at a farm in Ocean County; they were not included in the quarantine.
Equine Herpes Virus can cause respiratory problems, especially in young horses, spontaneous abortions in pregnant mares, and the neurologic form of the virus can reach high morbidity and mortality rates. The incubation period of EHV-1 clinically affected horses is typically 2 to 10 days, but infections may be spread for 21 days.
The New Jersey Division of Animal Health Laboratory can test horses for EHV, either through a nasal swab or blood sample. Veterinarians should call 609 984-2293 for further testing information.
The Department has a fact sheet on simple disinfection protocol for EHV-1 at www.state.nj.us/agriculture/pdf/simpledisinfectionprotocolEHV.pdf. The New Jersey Division of Animal Health can be reached at 609 292 3965 with any questions or concerns.
Meanwhile, several states away, Maine State Veterinarian Dr. Don Hoenig alerted veterinarians, horse owners and breeders in that state to the potential exposure of five Maine horses to equine herpes virus. The five horses, located on farms in the towns of Limington, Lyman and Buckfield, have been quarantined and have all been examined by the farms' practicing veterinarian. None of these animals are currently exhibiting signs of EHV-1 but they are being closely monitored. These horses were imported into Maine within the past week and were potentially exposed to EHV in New Jersey.
Maine's last experience with EHV occurred in 2007 when three horses died at a Rome stable.
The virus may persist in the environment for several weeks. Therefore, all horse owners and people who conduct business on horse farms (feed trucks, farriers, veterinarians, salespeople, etc.) should practice strict biosecurity. This includes changing outer clothing when traveling between farms, cleaning and disinfecting all equipment used when treating or handling horses and cleaning and disinfecting footwear or boots between farms.
For more information on the Maine situation, call the Maine Department of Agriculture at 207 287 3701 to speak with either Hoenig or Dr. Beth McEvoy.
Meanwhile, in Florida, a quarantine at the Calder Racecourse was lifted when tests revealed that a horse that died there did not test positive for EHV.