The More You Know: Staying On Top of Equine Disease Outbreaks

If you trail ride or show your horses, it’s important to stay on top of contagious disease outbreaks in your geographic region. We received this release from the folks at Merial, informing you of ways you can stay on top of any issues in your area.

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.1

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.3

As of late April 2014, state authorities had confirmed 11 cases – seven in Minnesota,4 two in Wisconsin5 and one in both Iowa and Kansas.7 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.8 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,” says 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-1,1 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.1,5 Although humans can’t be infected, they can spread the disease through direct contact or through clothes and supplies.1,5  

1Equine Herpesvirus (EHV-1). University of Minnesota. Center for Animal Health and Food Safety. Available at: Accessed April 3, 2014.
2Equine Herpes Virus. Pet Health & Nutrition Information & Questions. Available at: Accessed April 7, 2014.
3California Department of Food and Agriculture. CDFA > AHFSS > AHB > Equine Herpes Virus. Available at: Accessed April 3, 2014.
4Equine Herpesvirus. Minnesota Board of Animal Health. Available at: Accessed April 3, 2014.
5Animal Diseases. Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection. Available at: Accessed April 3, 2014.
6Cedar Rapids Weather. KCRG-TV9. Available at: Accessed April 4, 2014.
7EHV-1 Case Confirmed in Kansas. Kansas Department of Agriculture. Available at: Accessed May 1, 2014.
8EHV-1 Information. University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine. Available at: Accessed April 8, 2014.


Posted on June 15, 2014, in Helpful articles. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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