By Virginia Department of Agriculture
A horse admitted to the Virginia Tech’s large animal hospital has tested positive for Equine Herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1), the virus that causes Equine Herpes Myeloencephalopathy.
The horse was admitted to Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine in Blacksburg on Nov. 17 showing neurologic symptoms. The horse’s condition then deteriorated and it was euthanized on Nov. 18. A test came back positive for EHV-1 on Nov. 20.
In conjunction with the State Veterinarian’s Office of the Virginia Department of Agriculture, all exposed horses at the hospital were immediately isolated from the rest of the hospital population with strict biosecurity protocol and placed under quarantine.
All quarantined horses are being monitored twice daily for fever (temperature over 101.5 F) and other clinical signs. The hospital remains open and able to admit patients needing veterinary care.
The farm where the index case resided before going to VMCVM has been placed under quarantine. Horses at this farm are also being monitored for fever and clinical signs. The State Veterinarian’s Office has contacted all other horses that may have been secondarily exposed while at the teaching hospital.
There is no cause for alarm concerning the general horse population in Virginia. EHV-1 is a virus that is present in the environment and found in most horses all over the world. Horses typically are exposed to the virus at a young age with no serious side effects. A large percent of horses carry the virus with no clinical signs for the remainder of their lives.
EHV-1 routinely causes upper respiratory infection in young horses (weaning, yearlings, and 2 year olds) resulting in depression, a snotty nose, loss of appetite and a persistent cough.
Rarely, exposed horses develop the neurologic form of the disease. Neurological symptoms include incoordination that can progress to the inability to stand, lower leg swelling, the inability to urinate or pass manure, urine dribbling and reduced tail tone. Horse owners with concerns should contact their veterinarian.
Studies have shown that the virus doesn’t live long in the environment, but transmission via coughing or sneezing can occur over a distance of up to 35 feet. Direct contact with infected horses as well as contaminated feed, equipment, clothing, and tack can also spread the disease.
The Equine Disease Communications Center Biosecurity web pages equinediseasecc.org/biosecurity have more information on best practices for disease prevention in horses and VDACS has more information on EHV-1 at vdacs.virginia.gov/animals-equine-herpes-virus.shtml.