EHV-1 Outbreak: A Positive and Proactive Redbud Spectacular

Find out how the organizing committee of one of the largest Quarter Horse shows in the nation is handling biosecurity at their competition in response to the recent EHV-1 outbreak.

When the current equine herpesvirus type 1 (EHV-1) outbreak first surfaced in early May shortly after the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Western National Championship in Utah, Jackie Krshka of Yukon, Okla., immediately got on the phone.

As the show director for the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Association Redbud Spectacular--one of the nation's largest American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) shows--she knew the outbreak had serious implications for the 2011 show planned June 1-12 at the Oklahoma State Fair Park in Oklahoma City.

"We jumped right on top of it," Jackie says. She immediately put together a team directing the Redbud's biosecurity response to the outbreak: herself, show veterinarian David McCarroll (DVM, Dipl. ACVIM)(also on the Redbud show board) and Bill Allen of the State Fair Park. They stayed in constant contact with Oklahoma State Veterinarian Mike Herrin (DVM), the USDA, and AQHA.

"The current EHV-1/equine herpes myeloencephalopathy outbreak is isolated to a group of horses, and that limits the scope of the outbreak significantly," McCarroll explains. "Those horses and premises affected are very well identified. Credit is due to NCHA and its members who made the tough decision to segregate those horses from the rest of the population and limit traffic to events. I think it will pay huge dividends in the long run.

"The Redbud this year has no cutting or working cow horse events," he adds. "Horses at this show were not at risk of contracting the EHV-1 virus from the known group of exposed cutting horses that were identified and quarantined. That is the one big reason the decision was made to go ahead and have this show."

State Fair Park management thoroughly cleaned and disinfected the entire facility from stalls, wash racks, and barn aisles to exercise pens and the Coliseum. The facility was twice cleaned with a dilute bleach solution followed by an antiviral agent.

Show management also set up a quarantine stalling area, housed in a facility away from the main show barns. State Fair Park installed a number of hand sanitizer dispensers throughout the facility - in stalling areas, practice arenas, wash racks, etc.

"About five days out from the show we finalized what we were going to require from a health standpoint," Krshka says. "A health certificate within 10 days including a temperature reading; a current Coggin's test within 12 months; and a written statement that the horse had not attended the NCHA cutting event in Utah, nor had a stablemate, or any horses they'd been in contact with.

Horses began arriving May 31. AQHA Steward Karen McCuistion was on hand to screen health requirements at the gate and helped to explain why they were necessary.

"We had some horses arrive that had not heard about our health requirements or the outbreak," Jackie says. "We addressed those at the gate. We kept them aside until a veterinarian could examine and temp the horses right there on the spot, and we had the owners write statements on where the horses had been within the last 30 days."

Under McCarroll's direction, show management is encouraging continued health surveillance during the show. The Redbud gave digital thermometers to every exhibitor along with a temperature chart card asking that each horse have its temperature taken twice daily, logged on the chart. Show management also strongly encouraged that horses remain on the grounds for the duration of the time they'd be showing, to reduce traffic, and to limit nose-to-nose contact with horses originating from different barns.

"If a horse develops this disease, the more quickly it's treated the better chance the horse has to survive," McCarroll says.

"This is the type of viral infection you can shut down," he adds, "if you can just eliminate the movement of horses for a very specific time. After 21 days, there have been good laboratory data that show that the horse will no longer shed the virus. Although it will reside in the horse, it's no longer viremic. If the last horse exposed is not symptomatic and has no evidence of viral shedding after 21 days from exposure, you're home free. But if you don't get it quarantined, it just continues to leapfrog from place to place to place.

"This is a wake-up call for the industry. We need to be aware that there are serious contagious conditions out there - another is equine piroplasmosis for which AQHA is having all horses tested (prior to the world shows)."

Meanwhile, the Redbud goes on with steady numbers and a proactive, positive stance from exhibitors and management alike.

"I feel really good about what we've done," Krshka says. "I think we've been extremely aggressive."

Article reprinted with permission from the American Quarter Horse Journal.

About the Author

Christine Hamilton, The American Quarter Horse Journal

Christine Hamilton has worked in the American Quarter Horse industry--racing, breeding or writing--for 19 years. She has a BA in English from the University of Alabama, and has been an editor with The American Quarter Horse Journal since 2003.

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