Neurologic EHV-1 Confirmed in North Carolina Horse

The neurologic form of equine herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1) was confirmed in a North Carolina mare on Jan. 5. The horse, from a Rockingham County stable, was taken to the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) at North Carolina State University (NC State) upon becoming ill, and was directly quarantined to the equine isolation unit of the hospital. As a result, the equine hospital at NC State will only accept emergency cases for the next seven days.

"We have been fortunate that we've not seen this particular form of this common virus in North Carolina to date, even though it has been increasing in frequency throughout the country for almost a decade now," said State Veterinarian David Marshall, DVM. "We are working with the College of Veterinary Medicine and with the stable to implement biosecurity measures and minimize the risk of further spread."

"With the prior warning we were able to take the horse directly from the farm into our separate isolation unit so no horses currently in our hospital were exposed," Sam Jones, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, NC State professor of equine medicine, said in a statement on the CVM website. "We consulted with the State Veterinarian's Office as well as with biosecurity experts at Colorado State University who had previous experience with the virus. We are following our formal procedures for dealing with a highly contagious infectious disease and a team of CVM veterinarians and veterinary technicians has been assigned exclusively to this case to further ensure the health of our other equine patients."

Although it's not transmissible to humans, EHV-1 is highly contagious among horses and camelids, and it is generally passed from horse to horse via aerosol transmission (when affected animals sneeze/cough) and contact with nasal secretions. The disease can cause a variety of ailments in equines, including rhinopneumonitis (a respiratory disease usually found in young horses), abortion in broodmares, and myeloencephalopathy (EHM, the neurologic form).

Myeloencephalopathy is characterized by fever, ataxia (incoordination), weakness or paralysis of the hind limbs, and incontinence. Should a horse with potential EHV-1 exposure display any of the aforementioned clinical signs, a veterinarian should be called to obtain samples and test for the disease.

The statement on the NC State website noted that, "As an extra precaution while the infected mare remains quarantined in the isolation facility, the NC State Equine and Farm Animal Veterinary Center will carefully monitor existing equine patients in the hospital and will accept only emergency cases for the next seven days. CVM veterinarians are communicating directly with referring equine veterinarians, with the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association, and with horse owners who are concerned about the virus. A veterinarian or owner with specific questions may call 919/513-6630."

Biosecurity measures to help owners protect horses include quarantining facilities that are suspected to house EHV-1-exposed horses. Water and feed buckets should be disinfected and not shared between animals. Stalls and trailers should also be cleaned and disinfected regularly to prevent the spread of disease. New additions or those returning from shows and exhibitions should be isolated for 3 weeks prior to comingling with other horses upon returning home. Horse owners should also talk with their veterinarian to determine a vaccine schedule.

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