Two Florida Horses Confirmed With EHV-1, 67 Exposed

A mare showed neurologic signs of the disease on March 1. Three days later a second horse, her neighbor, exhibited a fever.
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Two Florida Horses Confirmed With EHV-1, 67 Exposed
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has confirmed two cases of equine herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1) at a boarding facility in Marion County. | Photo: Wikimedia commons
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has confirmed two cases of equine herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1) at a boarding facility in Marion County. A total 67 horses were exposed, and state officials have placed the premises under quarantine.

A private veterinarian reported the first horse, an 8-year-old Warmblood mare, with neurologic clinical signs on March 1, 2021. The mare subsequently tested positive for the neurotrophic strain of EHV-1. As of March 9, 2021, veterinarians were treating the horse at a separate isolation facility.

Veterinarians confirmed EHV-1 in a second horse on March 4. The horse had been stalled immediately adjacent to the first horse while at the farm. Although the horse has had a fever, it is not exhibiting neurologic signs. The horse is also receiving treatment at a separate isolation facility.

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).

equine herpesvirus
VIDEO | Health Alert: Equine Herpesvirus

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.

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