EHV-1 Confirmed in Maryland Horses
On March 9, Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) officials confirmed a horse on a Montgomery County farm with equine herpesvirus-1. The horse was euthanized due to complications after being sent to the Equine Medical Center (EMC) in Leesburg, Virginia, for treatment.

Forty-four other horses were housed in the index horse’s barn, two of which were sent to EMC for diagnosis, isolation, and treatment. MDA placed the horses’ home premises on a hold order, prohibiting movement on or off the facility until any potentially exposed horses are cleared for release.

The attending veterinarian and the farm continue to provide follow-up care to the horses on the premises, and MDA is investigating possible links to the positive horse.

MDA cautions horse owners to monitor their horses for elevated temperature and neurologic signs and report any suspected cases to their veterinarian, who are required to report neurologic signs to MDA.

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 EHM.

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.