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Copyright 2011 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

Equine Herpesvirus Outbreak in the 

Rocky Mountain West

By Natalie Riehl, Editor

 

June 2011 issue

  

     Just as RMR’s June issue was about to go to the printer, we received the news that some of the horses which had been entered in the National Cutting Horse Association Western National Championship in Ogden, UT, April 29—May 8, 2011, had been diagnosed with a neurological form of Equine Herpesvirus (EHV-1).

     Although seven (to date) of the horses which contracted the disease in the U.S. and Canada were euthanized, most have not died. Most of the horses which attended the show now seem to not have contracted the disease, and the horse which brought the disease into the event was a non-apparent carrier.

     We received many statements from State Veterinarians in affected states throughout the Rocky Mountain region, as well as press releases from veterinary colleges and horse organizations, and have posted all this information on an EVH-1 page on RMR’s website. Nearly every item posted has links to the USDA website, where readers can read the details about the disease.

     We have fielded phone calls with veterinarians, state officials and concerned horse owners. Jim Harvey, director of the Golden Spike Arena in Ogden assured me that as soon as they found out about the virus, the facility proactively threw away all hoses and buckets, and totally sterilized the stalls, alleyways and arenas of the facility with clorox plus fogged all horse areas with an anti-microbial virus neutralizer.

 

     The Equine Herpesvirus called EHV-1 is one of nine types of herpes found in horses worldwide. EHV-1 is better known as Rhinopneumonitis, and can manifest in four ways: abortion, a neurologic form, respiratory disease and neonatal death. Equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy (EHM) is another name for the neurologic form. Veterinarians in our area tell me that the most common form of herpes in equines they see is EHV-4 which causes nonfatal upper respiratory tract infections.

     Most horses have been infected with EHV-1 by the age of two, getting the herpes from their mothers. Usually, it becomes latent (inactive) in their bodies until they get under stress. This latency can be compared to many humans who periodically break out with a cold sore on their lip (herpes simplex) or with a case of shingles (herpes zoster). In fact, if you had chicken pox as a kid, that is herpes zoster and once it is in your body, it is there for life. Herpes in humans tend to become active when you are under great stress and your immune system is depleted. The same goes for horses.

     Although there is no vaccine for EHM, one veterinarian told me that “every horse, at some point, is going to face this virus. If they are in good health and well-nourished, they are likely to withstand it. For the average horse, the risk is no higher today than it was a year ago. Your horse is more likely to colic or have a musculoskeletal injury than it is to contract EHM.

     “In the case of the outbreak of the disease from the Odgen event, the infection rate is pretty small. If it was highly contagious, more than a small percentage of horses would have gotten it.”

     He advises caution if your horse was at that event. Follow the guidelines of keeping the horse separated from other horses and closely monitoring its health for 21 days.

     He stresses that horse owner education is the best means of understanding this disease. “If we all cancel shows and stop competing, or stop going to clinics, trail rides and other horse events, it’s going to hurt the horse industry. We have to learn to live with EHV-1, not in fear of it.”

 

Readers: during the next few weeks, as more details emerge, we will be updating RMR’s EHV-1 webpage. Please check for updates, and please contact us if you know important information not listed. on that page. 

 

Please click here to go to EHV-1 page.

 

 

Copyright 2011 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

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