Animal health officials in Virginia remain on the alert after more than 40 suspected cases of Equine Herpes Virus-1 (EHV-1) or Equine Herpes Virus Myeloencephalopathy (EHM) are believed to have infected horses at one event, the NCHA Western National Championship even in Ogden, Utah. The championship was held between April 29 and May 8, 2011.
VDACS reports 33 confirmed cases of EHV-1 or EHM have been found in eight western states, including CA, CO, ID, NM, OR, TX, UT and WA. However, no horses in the Carolina-Virginia region are known to have been at the event.
Still, a total of 997 horses are believed to have been exposed, either through the event or through contact with horses that were exposed. The disease is known to be highly infectious and can be spread by a horse inhaling or ingesting infected droplets from nasal discharges or aborted fetuses. Symptoms may include fever, difficulty urinating, depression and stumbling or weakness in the hind legs. Some cases can be treated.
Of 21 cases of EHV-1 infection and 12 cases of EHM that have been confirmed seven horses have died or were euthanized.
"We are monitoring the situation carefully outside of Virginia and will do everything we can to protect our horses," says Richard Wilkes, Virginia's state veterinarian who works at VDACS. "We cannot promise that we can keep EHV-1 out of Virginia, but with our horse owners on high alert and our constant contact with State Veterinarians and the horse industry in affected states, we are cautiously optimistic."
Wilkes added, "Even though no horses have been traced to Virginia from the NCHA Western National Championship, horse owners are reminded that whenever horses are comingled there is some risk for a number of diseases including EHV. Every owner should adopt sound biosecurity practices to protect their animals at equine events and upon their return to their home stable. Horse owners should work with their veterinarians for recommendations for vaccination programs, biosecurity practices and methods for early disease detections to minimize the risks of their horses becoming ill."
At this time, Dr. Wilkes has not requested cancellations of any horse events in Virginia. Horse owners planning to travel to other states should check with the State Animal Health Official in the destination state to see if any new pre-entry testing or statement requirements have been enacted as a result of this disease event.
VDACS has established an outbreak web page with links to many kinds of information on the equine diseases. Find more information at http://www.vdacs.virginia.gov/animals/ehv.shtml.