Outbreaks of equine virus EHV-1 prompts warning to horse owners for vigilance


CHARLESTON, W. Va. — West Virginia Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick is warning equine owners, facilities and events to step up biosecurity practices in response to recent occurrences of Equine Herpes Virus Type 1 (EHV-1).

EHV-1 infections in horses can result in a variety of ailments that include respiratory disease, abortions, neonatal deaths and the neurologic disease termed Equine Herpes Myeloencephalopathy (EHM).

EHM has been diagnosed in recent months in California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, Tennessee and Utah.

Cause for concern

“The frequency and severity of the cases reported so far means the horse industry should be working to minimize the risk of the disease causing problems in the West Virginia herd,” said Helmick. “People should be reviewing their biosecurity plans and strengthening them where appropriate.”

The plan should be to prevent the transmission of infectious agents by minimizing contact among individual animals said State Veterinarian Dr. Jewell Plumley. Biosecurity plans should include facility layout, feeding and watering procedures, decontamination protocols and immunization plans.

A copy of the American Association of Equine Practitioners biosecurity guidelines and EHV resources can be found at www.aaep.org/ehv_resources.htm.

Horse owners are also encouraged to consult their veterinarians about vaccinating their animals against EHV-1, which might provide protection against neurologic disease.

Plumley said the West Virginia Department of Agriculture’s (WVDA) Animal Health Division staff will continue its elevated regulatory surveillance at events throughout the state. Exhibitors can help by having their animals’ health documents up-to-date and accessible.

WVDA’s Animal Health works closely with show management and veterinarians to ensure immediate notification and quick response to any suspected communicable disease.




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