The Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Oregon State University (OSU) will not accept horses for anything but emergency services until at least July 30, after an outbreak of equine influenza at the hospital.
Three horses are known to be infected with the virus and others could be, according to officials. The virus is a highly contagious respiratory disease in horses that typically is not fatal, but is a particular concern to foals and pregnant horses, since it can cause abortion.
Other than equines, the situation will not affect the care of any other small or large animals at the hospital.
The three horses infected at OSU have been placed in isolation and are being treated. Officials say they wish to emphasize that this is equine influenza virus, not equine herpes virus-1, a more serious disease that is often confused with the influenza virus.
Equine influenza is not transferable to humans or other animal species, but can spread rapidly among horses and other equines. It is the most common contagious respiratory pathogen for horses and most animals fully recover. However, young, elderly or pregnant animals are more at-risk for viral diseases such as equine influenza.
“Equine influenza virus is endemic in the US, and we just happened to catch these cases,” said Keith Poulsen, an internal medicine specialist at the Lois Bates Acheson Veterinary Teaching Hospital in OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “We’ve acted quickly so that hopefully no other animals will get infected.”
The Large Animal Internal Medicine and Surgery Services program at OSU is working with the state veterinarian’s office to inform veterinarians and horse owners about the disease.
The first clinical sign in horses is typically a fever, followed by cough, nasal discharge and lethargy. Horses with a fever of greater than 102.5 degrees should be seen by a veterinarian.
Infected horses can “shed” or transmit the virus for up to 10 days after incubation, although the peak of shedding is three to five days after infection. Horses that show signs of the disease should be isolated from other horses for 10 days after clinical signs first appear.
The virus is easily killed by many disinfectants, and thorough cleaning of stalls and equipment can help prevent the virus from spreading. Vaccination of horses during an outbreak in a training facility or barn can be beneficial, in consultation with a veterinarian.
The OSU equine facility typically treats 5-10 horses at a time. All horses currently hospitalized will be monitored closely and tested for equine influenza prior to discharge.