An informational session on Equine Herpes 1 (EHV-1), Wednesday, March 26, drew a full house to the University of Minnesota’s Nutrena Conference Center with an online listenership that rapidly hit the system’s 200 limit.
U of M Veterinarians Dr. Stephanie Valberg, Dr. Carrie Finno, Dr. Christie Ward and Dr. Jeff Bender shared the latest information that they and veterinarians across the Twin Cities area have amassed about the recent outbreak of EHV-1.
Dr. Christie Ward outlined that as of Wednesday, March 26, there have been 8 confirmed cases of EHV-1 in MN, WI and IA. Others are pending.
Dr. Carrie Finno, a post-doctoral veterinarian in the U of M’s Equine Neuromuscular Diagnostic Laboratory, shared her personal as well as professional experience with EHV-1 that she acquired during a residency at the University of California-Davis. She was careful to note that when discussing this disease that “terminology is important.”
“The EHV-1 virus can cause Equine Herpesvirus Myeloencephalopathy (EHM), but not all the time,” said Finno.
She noted that healthy horses can carry the EHV-1 virus and never become sick or infect other horses. That is why veterinarians do not recommend conducting diagnostic testing on horses that have not been exposed to the current outbreak – either by being on the same property where other horses that have tested positive have been, or being in direct contact with other horses that have exposed to the virus or have tested positive.
She recommended watching horses carefully for any signs of the virus if the horse has been exposed. The virus has an incubation period of four to six days and may look like an upper respiratory tract infection. The second symptom is a fever of more than 103.5 degrees. Then a horse may appear normal Finno said. Neurological symptoms will begin to become apparent at seven to 12 days.
She said one of the most effective ways to monitor a horse is checking its temperature twice a day.
“EHV is treatable but must be found early,” said Finno. “Anti-virals are effective but need to be given early.”
The vets stressed meaningful actions that horse owners, barn owners and show facility owners and staff can do to help reduce the number of horses exposed to EHV-1.
“There is no one way to handle this situation,” said Ward. “It’s highly variable but it’s ideal to err on the side of caution and prudence.”
Their recommendations included limiting non-essential movement of horses for at least two weeks past the last reported case of EHV-1 (March 26).
Limit visits by outside equine service providers if at all possible.
Treat this outbreak as you would an outbreak of human influenza: wash hands frequently and use hand sanitizer. Additionally, if you have been to places where other horse owners may have been (retail outlets, for instance), dip boots in household disinfectants and wash clothing – particularly coats.
Dr. Jeff Bender noted that the EHV-1 “is not a hardy virus.” He urged everyone to use common sense, be aware and think of items that touch horses the most.
“We need to respect this disease,” said Finno as she shared case video from the University of California-Davis clinic.