California Horse Succumbs to EHV-1
Officials at the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) confirmed a 13-year-old Quarter Horse mare from San Bernardino County, California, with equine herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1).

The mare began showing clinical signs of fever, hypermetria (cerebellar dysfunction in which voluntary muscular movements tend to result in the movement of bodily parts beyond the intended goal), and neurologic signs on Oct. 29. She was euthanized the same day due to the severity of her signs and confirmed positive upon necropsy on Nov. 5.

Twenty exposed horses on her home premises have been quarantined and enhanced biosecurity measures enacted, including twice-daily temperature monitoring. The positive horse is not linked to any other California EHV-1 cases and had not recently moved off the premises. CDFA continues to monitor the situation.

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 myeloencephalopathy (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 the neurologic form 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.