Florida EHV-1: Disease Surveillance Continues

Florida EHV-1: Disease Surveillance Continues

The FDACS says they're monitoring horses at the HITS showgrounds and that any horse showing febrile, respiratory, or neurologic signs (of disease) will be tested for EHV-1.

Photo: Peterson & Smith Equine Hospital

Florida animal health officials are keeping close watch on horses stabled at the Horse Shows in the Sun (HITS) facility in Ocala, Fla., which is currently under quarantine after several horses previously housed at the facility tested positive for equine herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1), according to a March 5 statement from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS).

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.

According to the 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.

Although it's not transmissible to humans, EHV-1 is highly contagious among horses and camelids and 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 equids, 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 that potentially has been exposed to EHV-1 display any of the aforementioned clinical signs, call a veterinarian to obtain samples and test for the disease.

TheHorse.com will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available.

About the Author

Erica Larson, News Editor

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.

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