Ohio Equine Herpesvirus Type 1 Victims Recovering

The "miserable, tragic experience" of losing a dozen horses and fighting to save more than 100 others which became ill has devastated the University of Findlay. It will take weeks or months for the remaining 30 horses with neurologic signs of equine herpesvirus type 1 (EHV-1) to recover. The outbreak began on Jan. 12, and the losses were still occurring as late as Feb. 1, when the last of four horses sent to The Ohio State University for critical care died. A total of 12 horses have died or been euthanized since the outbreak began.

Nine horses have suffered from fevers since Jan. 28, but those horses have not exhibited neurologic signs. A total of 42 horses showed neurologic signs during the outbreak; all horses which died had neurologic signs. The 30 surviving horses are stable and in some cases showing improvement.

"It is still believed that the virus has been contained to the English riding facility, which remains under quarantine," noted a statement from the University of Findlay. "The facility will not open for classes until three weeks after the last symptoms present. All activities at the English riding facility have been canceled through early April, and the Western riding facility also remains quarantined as a precautionary measure."

The EHV-1 organism can cause three different forms of disease, including rhinopneumonitis (a respiratory disease often affecting young horses), abortions in pregnant mares, and neurologic disease. Respiratory and neurologic disease were associated with the Ohio outbreak. There are at least seven other strains of equine herpesviruses, named in order of their discovery. (See article #32 for more on herpesviruses.) Horses can survive the neurologic form of EHV-1 with supportive care, but if a horse becomes recumbent, it is difficult to nurse the horse back to health.

More information on the specific strain of the virus after DNA sequencing and comparison to other strains of EHV-1 will be forthcoming. Rick Henninger, DVM, a veterinarian at the University of Findlay, said, "The information will be something that can be added to what we know about herpesvirus and hopefully used in the future to prevent outbreaks, and to get a better understanding of this particular strain of herpesvirus."

About the Author

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief, received a B.A. in Journalism and Equestrian Studies from Averett College in Danville, Virginia. A Pony Club and 4-H graduate, her background is in eventing, and she is schooling her recently retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Happy, toward a career in that discipline. She also enjoys traveling, photography, cycling, and cooking in her free time.

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