Florida EHV-1: Equine Influenza Confirmed at HITS Facility
Photo: Peterson & Smith Equine Hospital
As Florida animal health officials monitor horses housed at the quarantined Horse Shows in the Sun (HITS) facility in Ocala, Fla., for signs of equine herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1), they're also on the lookout for signs of another respiratory disease that's been confirmed at the showgrounds: equine influenza.
On March 6, Mark Fagan, spokesman for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), told TheHorse.com that "multiple horses" showed clinical signs before testing positive for the disease. None of the horses that have tested positive for equine influenza have been euthanized, he said, and all of the positive horses are being treated by veterinarians.
He said that the number of positive flu tests has "dropped off significantly" recently.
"The biosecurity measures we've put in place for EHV-1 should assist with reduction of the transmission of the flu virus," Fagan said. "We're being as proactive as we can."
In addition to adhering to the biosecurity measures set forth by the FDACS, Fagan said owners should ensure their horses are up-to-date on their flu vaccines: "Definitely, if they haven't received the vaccine, they should get the vaccine."
The Ocala EHV-1 outbreak began when a horse that had previously been stabled in Tent 7 at the HITS facility was diagnosed with wild-type EHV-1 on Feb. 21. That horse, who exhibited neurologic clinical signs associated with the disease, has responded to treatment and remains in stable condition at the University of Florida (UF) College of Veterinary Medicine's Large Animal Hospital.
Subsequently, five additional horses previously stabled in Tents 3 and 6 at the HITS showgrounds tested positive for the EHV-1:
- One horse is located at Redfield Farm, in Ocala; and
- Four horses are from Miles Away Farm, in Loxahatchee, Fla. One of the positive horses located at Miles Away Farm developed neurologic signs and is being treated at UF.
- Additionally, one horse that is linked to the HITS showgrounds but has no clinical signs of the disease has tested positive for EHV-1 and is located at Calder Farms, in Ocala.
No additional EHV-1 cases have been confirmed.
According to a March 5 FDACS statement, "the entire HITS showgrounds was placed under quarantine on Feb. 27. Movement of horses on or off the showgrounds is prohibited. The quarantine will remain in effect for a minimum of 21 days from the last exposure (Feb. 20). Any horse showing febrile, respiratory, or neurologic signs (of disease) will be tested. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' personnel are manning the gates of the showgrounds 24 hours a day.
"Additional exposed horses that had been stabled in Tents 3, 6, and 7 and moved prior to the HITS quarantine have been placed under quarantine around the state," the statement said. The following facilities are currently under quarantine, according to the statement:
- Up Country Farm/Synergy Farm, Ocala
- Montera Farm, Ocala
- Flutterby Farm, Ocala
- Foxwood Farms, Pinellas Park
- Black Forest Farm, St. Augustine
- POD-F Farm, Wellington
- Brookmore Farm, Oviedo
- Kings Ridge Farm, Reddick
- Redfield Farm, Ocala
- Miles Away Farm, Loxahatchee
- Calder Farms, Ocala
- Hard Ford Farm, Reddick
- Chestnut Hill Farm (Wisconsin based farm, Ocala temporary location)
The FDACS recommended that owners or caretakers of horses that have shown at HITS since Feb. 5 closely monitor the animals, report any fevers greater than 101.5 to a veterinarian immediately, and adhere to strict biosecurity measures for at least 21 days after HITS departure date.
"The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will continue to work with HITS management, trainers, and veterinarians to ensure proper safeguards are taken to prevent further spread of the disease," the statement said.
TheHorse.com will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available.
About the Author
Erica Larson, news editor, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.