Herpesvirus In Florida: Cases Hold Steady at Nine

The number of positive neurologic equine herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1) cases in the state stands at nine horses--seven in the Wellington area, one in Ocala, and one in Indiantown--according to today's update (Dec. 27) from Florida's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DOACS). Five Florida deaths have been attributed to EHV-1, "although only two of the cases could be confirmed by laboratory tests," said the update.

Yesterday, track officials lifted a temporary ban on new horses shipping in to Calder Race Course for long-term stabling.

There were no new Florida EHV-1 updates this afternoon (Dec. 27), stated Mark Fagan, spokesman for DOACS.

Today the department reviewed the state-mandated quarantine at Payson Park, a Thoroughbred training facility near Indiantown, said Fagan. "We probably will have some recommendations by tomorrow" for that facility, he said. The fifth Florida EHV-1 victim in the current outbreak was stabled at Payson Park. Officials believe the filly was exposed to the virus at Wellington's Palm Beach Equine Sports Complex, where 10 known cases have originated.

The department released a list of premises under mandatory state quarantine either because of confirmed cases or suspected cases:

  • J N Stables 15680 46th Lane S, Wellington, Fla., Palm Beach County;
  • S & L Farms 13155 Southfields Road, Wellington, Fla., Palm Beach County;
  • Equine Services Ltd. 4751 South Road, West Palm Beach, Fla.--Palm Beach County;
  • Palm Beach Equine Sports Complex 13124 Southfields Road, Wellington, Fla., Palm Beach County;
  • Palm Beach Equine Clinic 13125 Southfields Road--Wellington, Fla., Palm Beach County;
  • Reid & Associates 1630 F Road, Loxahatchee, Fla., Palm Beach County;
  • Pinehurst Stables 10095 165th Lane North, Jupiter, Fla., Martin County;
  • Tuxedo Farms 7780 NW 137th Avenue, Morriston, Fla., Marion County;
  • Payson Park 9700 SW Kanner Highway, Indiantown, Fla.; Martin County; and
  • Victory Lane 14875 Palm Beach Point--Wellington, Fla., Palm Beach County

Officials caution that a variety of equine facilities around Florida have enacted voluntary quarantines and restrictions for entry, and they've suggested that horse owners contact their destination points to verify the particulars before shipping animals.

New horses were temporarily blocked from stabling at Calder after neurologic EHV-1 was detected in a horse that had been stabled at the track. Mary Scollay, DVM, Calder's track veterinarian, confirmed this restriction was lifted Dec. 26, one week after the discovery of the positive horse. The precaution had been taken to stop other horses from stabling at Calder until the situation was under control.

Two barns at Calder remain under quarantine for 21 days (the horses' last possible exposure to the affected horse was Dec. 11, therefore the quarantine holds until Jan. 1) provided there is no evidence of the disease in those animals. Scollay said yesterday (Dec. 26) the horses in the restricted barns would be tested for EHV-1 at the end of this week.

"There are no new numbers (of EHV-1 cases) as far as I know," she said. "Hopefully, we've turned a corner here. We've had some very cooperative and understanding horsemen, and that's made a big difference. We're in cleanup mode now."

The neurologic form of EHV-1 can cause fevers and clinical signs ranging from incoordination and weakness in the hind limbs to paralysis. The virus is highly contagious and based on past clinical cases, veterinarians believe it can be spread at least 35 feet in the air. The virus can also be distributed via shared tack and barn equipment, as well as human hands and clothing. Tight biosecurity measures are essential to stop its spread.

The department update said, "Owners with sick horses should contact their private veterinarian to examine and treat their horses. Veterinarians suspecting EHV-1 with neurologic signs are advised to contact state officials and follow protocols for collecting and submitting appropriate samples for laboratory diagnosis."

There are EHV-1 vaccines available, but none are labeled to prevent the neurologic form of the virus. Florida officials encourage horse owners to discuss vaccination with their veterinarians.

Julia Wilson, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, associate professor of Veterinary Population Medicine at the University of Minnesota, made vaccination recommendations today on TheHorse.com. (www.TheHorse.com/ViewArticle.aspx?ID=8492).  

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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