EHM Confirmed in Virginia Horse

EHM Confirmed in Virginia Horse

Horse exhibitors and event goers can monitor their horses for early signs of infection by taking their temperature twice a day while at shows and reporting an elevated temperature to their veterinarian.

Photo: Peterson & Smith Equine Hospital

A Northern Virginia horse euthanized late last week was confirmed positive for equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy (EHM), a neurologic disease caused by equine herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1).

Richard Wilkes, DVM, State Veterinarian with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), announced April 11 that the horse was euthanized late last Friday (April 11) and that diagnostic samples were submitted to the VDACS Regional Animal Health Laboratory System by a private practice veterinarian. The horse had experienced a fever for three days and began to display neurologic signs compatible with EHM, a VDACS press release said.

Field veterinarians have started the epidemiologic investigation needed to assess the risk of the disease being present in other horses or farms. The VDACS will monitor the situation continuously and urges all horse owners in Virginia to minimize nonessential contact with other horses and to enhance their biosecurity practices on and off of the farm to prevent the spread of this and other infectious diseases. Horse owners should consult their veterinarians about specific ways to minimize the risk of EHV-1 infection on their farms.

Health Alert: Equine Herpesvirus

Clinical signs of EHM in horses can include a fever, nasal discharge, wobbly gait, hind-end weakness, and urine dribbling. The disease is often fatal.

The virus is easily spread by airborne transmission, horse-to-horse contact, and by contact with nasal secretions on equipment, tack, feed, and other surfaces. Caretakers can spread the virus to other horses if their hands, clothing, shoes or vehicles are contaminated. Thus, VDACS officials advise that strict biosecurity is the most effective way to minimize the risk of spreading the virus.

The VDACS recommends the following biosecurity measures for all horses that will come into contact with other horses at shows, trail rides, meets, and other events:

  • Minimize direct contact between assembled horses whenever possible.
  • Clean and disinfect equipment, feed, tack, stalls, and other surfaces shared between horses.
  • Isolate and closely monitor horses that are returning from a show, trail ride, or competition for a minimum of 14 days.
  • Clean and disinfect caretakers’ hands, clothing, shoes, and vehicles that could be contaminated by other horses or equipment. 
  • Consult with your veterinarian about a vaccination schedule for diseases of concern such as Eastern equine encephalitis, West Nile virus, equine rhinopneumonitis (a respiratory disease caused by EHV-1), and rabies. Your equine veterinarian can also provide you with biosecurity recommendations that are specifically tailored to your horses and your facility.

Horse exhibitors and event goers can monitor their horses for early signs of infection by taking their temperature twice a day while at shows and reporting an elevated temperature to their veterinarian. Veterinarians should report suspected cases of EHM to the Virginia State Veterinarian’s office at 804/786-2483.

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from TheHorse.com. Learn More

Free Newsletters

Sign up for the latest in:

From our partners