Horse Herpes Spreading Like Wildfire Across 7 States and Counting

A number of equine herpesvirus 1 or EHV-1 (horse herpes) positive cases have been reported across the country in recent months. Experts are asking horse owners to monitor their horses closely, for signs of the disease including fever or a runny nose. In some cases and in certain states where horses have tested positively for EHV-1 events are being postponed. State vets across the country (and in states where there are confirmed cases) are monitoring this in cooperation with horse event and venue managers to ensure this doesn't spread. 

Equine herpesvirus is highly contagious and spreads from horse to horse rapidly through inhalation of respiratory secretions, and direct contact. Anyone competing in events in the west needs to be cautious.

According to an article in The Deseret News,

"Utah State veterinarian Barry Pitman is warning horse owners to take protective action to ward off a potentially fatal outbreak of equine herpes.

Fears of an outbreak reaching Utah prompted the cancellation of multiple high school rodeos as owners try to prevent the spread of the virus, which caused more than 160 horses to be euthanized in 2011-12."

Fortunately, there are no confirmed cases of EHV-1 in the state of Utah. The Equine Disease Communication Center monitors horse infections and diseases across the country, reported the following cases of EHV-1 and equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy (EHM) in March:

  • EHV-1: Two cases in New York, one case in Washington
  • EHM: Three cases in Arizona, one case in Iowa, California, Nevada and Idaho

According to their Facebook page and social media feeds, there have also been recent sporadic reports of the diseases especially in Nevada, Idaho, California, Wyoming, Texas, and Canada.

"As of March, the Equine Disease Communication Center reported three premises, two in New York and one in Washington, impacted by the equine herpes virus. Seven premises logged cases of the mutant strain of the virus as of March in Arizona, Idaho, Iowa, California and Nevada. The mutant strain is called equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy, which impacts the central nervous system."

If you follow their Facebook page, you'll receive up to date alerts.

The incubation period for the virus depends on the subtype affecting the horse but is generally 4-10 days. Then these symptoms of the herpes virus in horses include:

  • Fever
  • Nasal discharge
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Decreased fitness performance
  • Weakness in hind legs
  • Strange gait
  • Anorexia
  • Lethargy

Horse owners are encouraged to seek information from reliable sources, contact event managers at places they plan to attend, increase health checks and stay at home for now if they don't feel comfortable traveling with their horses.

Infected horses with an EHV-1 infection will need to be quarantined. Take note of the above clinical signs of this respiratory disease as it's a very serious condition. Biosecurity measures are taken at venues to protect horses from disease outbreak! If a horse is presenting clinical signs, viral isolation can be done on nasal swabs from suspect horses.

Staff note: The big AQHA Championships are postponed. reported,

"The American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) says due to the recent confirmed EHV-1 positive cases at the South Point Arena and Equestrian Center this week, the state veterinarian of Nevada decided to postpone the AQHA West Level 1 Championships scheduled for April 17 to April 20 in Las Vegas."

Has one of your events been postponed as a result of an EHV-1 positive case at a venue you compete at? Please leave a comment below. 

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