Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) officials have revised requirements released July 20 for horses arriving at Kentucky racetracks and training facilities from Saratoga Racetrack in New York. As of July 31, additional requirements will be in place to ensure that new arrivals at Kentucky racetracks and associated training facilities are free of EHV-1.

Horses that have been on Saratoga’s grounds after July 31 can qualify to enter a Kentucky track or sanctioned training center with documentation that they were off Saratoga grounds prior to July 31 or that they have been tested via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) after July 31 and reported negative for EHV-1 on both nasal swab and whole blood-EDTA samples. The horse must also have a certificate of veterinary inspection from the point where the sample was collected and documentation of its EHV-1 testing and a current health assessment, including EHV-1 vaccination and EIA test certificate, that meets the state’s normal entry requirements.

EHV 101

Herpesvirus is highly contagious among horses and can cause a variety of ailments in equids, including rhinopneumonitis (a respiratory disease usually found in young horses), abortion in broodmares, and equine herpesvirus myeloencephalitis (EHM, the neurologic form).

In many horses, the first or only sign of EHV-1 infection is fever, which can go undetected. In addition to fever, other common signs of EHV-1 infection in young horses include cough, decreased appetite, depression, and a nasal discharge. Pregnant mares typically show no signs of infection before they abort, and abortions usually occur late in gestation (around eight months) but can be earlier. Abortions can occur anywhere from two weeks to several months following infection with EHV-1.

Horses with EHM usually have a fever at the onset of the disease and might show signs of a respiratory infection. A few days later, neurologic signs such as ataxia (incoordination), weakness or paralysis of the fore- and hind limbs, urine retention and dribbling, loss of tail tone, and recumbency (inability to rise) develop.

Herpesvirus is easily spread by nose-to-nose or close contact with an infectious horse; sharing contaminated equipment including bits, buckets, and towels; or clothing, hands, or equipment of people who have recently had contact with an infectious horse. Routine biosecurity measures, including hygiene and basic cleaning and disinfection practices, should be in place at all times to help prevent disease spread.

Current EHV-1 vaccines might reduce viral shedding but are not protective against the neurologic form of the disease. Implementing routine biosecurity practices is the best way to minimize viral spread, and the best method of disease control is disease prevention.