Equine Herpesvirus Abortion Reported in Oklahoma

Three exposed mares remain under 21-day quarantine.
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Equine Herpesvirus Abortion Reported in Oklahoma
In many horses, the first or only sign of EHV-1 infection is fever, which can go undetected. Pregnant mares typically show no signs of infection before they abort, and abortions usually occur late in gestation. | Photo: Stephanie L. Church/The Horse
On March 11, officials at the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture confirmed an 8-year-old Quarter Horse mare with EHV-related abortion. The mare’s aborted foal was found in the pasture on March 9 during morning feeding. The mare, which had been vaccinated, has shown no other clinical signs.

The aborted foal’s liver was tested and indicated positive for equine herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1). The mare’s tests came back negative for the disease

No equines have left the property in the last six months, and the mare did not share fence lines with any other horses. Three exposed mares that were pastured with the affected mare are under 21-day quarantine without testing, and the owner is monitoring them for clinical signs.

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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