The recent outbreak of non-neuropathogenic Equine herpesvirus (EHV-1) in the midwestern U.S. has had horse owners and area veterinarians on high alert and in need of up-to-date information. EHV-1 is a highly contagious virus that can cause respiratory disease, abortion and sporadic occurrences of neurologic disease in horses.
Clinical signs of EHV-1 include fever, lethargy, anorexia, nasal discharge and decreased fitness performance. And if the virus advances and becomes equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy (EHM), lack of coordination, hindquarter weakness, recumbency and urine dribbling may occur.
As of late April 2014, state authorities had confirmed 11 cases--seven in Minnesota, two in Wisconsin and one in both Iowa and Kansas. Horse owners are taking strict precautions--including quarantine--to prevent further spread of the virus. This outbreak of EHV-1 is believed to have first surfaced in barrel horses near the Twin Cities. After its initial detection, several equestrian events were canceled or postponed.
“Any time there is an EHV-1 outbreak horse owners should be extra vigilant while traveling considering the highly contagious nature and seriousness of the disease,” said Megan Green, DVM, manager, large animal veterinary services, Merial. “One way they can stay informed is through the Outbreak Alert program.”
The free program tracks confirmed cases of EHV-1, as well as West Nile virus, Eastern equine encephalitis, Western equine encephalitis, equine influenza, Potomac Horse Fever and rabies. Texts and/or e-mail messages are sent to alert horse owners of confirmed cases. Anyone can sign up to receive these alerts and those who travel with their horses can enter multiple ZIP codes in the site’s search field to help them stay abreast of disease threats throughout the country.
While current vaccines do not reliably protect horses against the neurologic form of EHV-1, horse owners can help defend their horses’ health by staying informed with Outbreak Alert. Veterinarians can also benefit from the site, which offers exclusive features, including communication tools that can be used in practices.
Wisconsin state veterinarians had suggested limiting travel and eliminating horse-to-horse contact as the best options for horses exhibiting neurological signs of the disease. Although humans can’t be infected, they can spread the disease through direct contact or through clothes and supplies.
Merial is a world-leading, innovation-driven animal health company, providing a comprehensive range of products to enhance the health, well-being and performance of a wide range of animals. Merial employs approximately 6,200 people and operates in more than 150 countries worldwide with close to €2 billion of sales in 2013.
Merial is a Sanofi company. For more information please see www.merial.com.