EHV-1 and You

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You may have seen in the news recently that Louisiana had horses test positive for EHV-1 and that Kentucky has had cases in January. A mandatory two-week quarantine is put into place when a horse tests positive, even if no symptoms are present. It’s possible, and probable, you’ve heard of EHV (equine herpes virus) but I thought this was a timely topic to revisit.

EHV-1 is one of several types of equine herpes viruses. It can cause respiratory illness, abortion, congenital infections, and sometimes a fatal illness of the nervous system (EHM). The neurologic form has been relatively rare but there has been an increase of EHM cases in North America at racetracks and horses attending large events.

Most horses are carriers of equine herpes viruses (get infected early in life) and the virus remains latent, or undetectable. During times of stress it will exacerbate the problem and present itself in the typical symptoms. You may notice nasal discharge, fever, incoordination, and lethargy among other things. In other cases, however, fever may be the only visible symptom. Nasal swabs and blood tests are used to confirm the virus. Consult your veterinarian if you think your horse may be sick!

Currently, none of the vaccines labeled for EHV-1 will prevent EHM. EHV-1 is spread through direct horse to horse contact (most prevalent spread) as well as contaminated equipment or tack, contaminated trailers, contaminated wipe rags or grooming equipment, and contaminated feed and water buckets. Increased biosecurity can definitely help with the spread of this disease!!

As with all diseases, please consult your veterinarian for the appropriate vaccination schedules as well as treatment.