Equine Herpesvirus Type 1 (EHV-1) has been in the news throughout the country recently, with outbreaks of the virus occurring in locations as varied as Florida, Connecticut and California. A week ago we got the news that this nasty virus was closer than we thought. The state ordered an immediate quarantine of the Virginia Tech Marion DuPont Scott Equine Medical Center after veterinary doctors reported a suspected infection of the neurological form of equine herpesvirus in three hospitalized horses. By the next day it was being reported that the quarantine now involved 175 horses and 4 counties in the immediate area.
EHV-1 is a highly infectious disease that usually affects the respiratory system. Occasionally, the virus may also cause neurological disease. Transmission likely occurs by inhaling infected droplets or ingesting material contaminated by nasal discharges or aborted fetuses. The disease can prove fatal in approximately 40 percent of cases. In severe cases, the affected horse will become unable to stand; these cases have a very poor prognosis. To date, there is no effective treatment for EHV-1.
Local horse owners are taking this potential outbreak very seriously. Proof is evident throughout Virginia's horse country and the region, with event cancellations, self-imposed quarantines, and the halt of all horse sales and auctions in the state of Virginia. The appearance of EHV-1 in Northern Virginia has affected casual horse-hobbyists to 4-H-ers; from fox-hunt clubs to top-flight trainers.
My facility is less than 25 miles from the Marion Dupont Center, where the virus first appeared. I feel relatively safe knowing that none of the horses here have been off the grounds in the last six months, and no one is going anywhere until this thing blows over. Unfortunately putting your barn on lock down isn't enough when dealing with a disease as dangerously contagious as EHV-1. There is no fail safe way to prevent any horse from developing EHV-1. Several types of vaccine are available for the four known strains of EHV (1-4), though none have proven fully effective against the neurological strain. Your best defense, as they say, is a good offense
There is an old saying: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Biosecurity is the best possible way to prevent the spread of EHV- 1 at your facility. Biosecurity means doing everything you can to reduce the chances of an infectious disease being carried onto your farm by people, animals, equipment, or vehicles, either accidentally or on purpose. Many local stables are limiting visitors to one entrance and making a foot bath to walk through before entering the Barn.
Instructions for preparing an easy foot bath
You will need:
1. A low plastic pan or bin, wide enough to fit an adult’s foot, shallow enough to step into easily
2. A plastic doormat (the “fake grass” mats work well)
3. A disinfectant that works when manure or dirt is present, such as Tek-trol or One Stroke Environ or bleach
Mix the disinfectant with water following label instructions. Put the doormat in the plastic pan. Add disinfectant so that the bottom of the “grass” is wet. Ask visitors to walk through the footbath, wiping their feet on the mat. The “grass” scrubs their shoes a bit as they wipe them, and applies the disinfectant. When the liquid starts to get dirty, empty it and put in new disinfectant.
There are several good websites with further information on EHV-1 and how to prevent it. Here are a few that I found helpful.
questions concerning the quarantine can call the center's toll-free hotline at 1-866-438-7235