First case of neurological EHV-1 in North Carolina

January 7, 2012

North Carolina has confirmed its first case of the neurologic form of equine herpesvirus 1 (EHV-1).

The state's agriculture department said in a statement on Thursday the horse was taken from a Rockingham County stable to the College of Veterinary Medicine at North Carolina State University after becoming ill.

The infected mare went straight into the hospital's isolation unit.

"With the prior warning we were able to take the horse directly from the farm into our separate isolation unit so no horses currently in our hospital were exposed," said Dr Sam Jones, professor of equine medicine.

"We consulted with the State Veterinarian's Office as well as with biosecurity experts at Colorado State University who had previous experience with the virus.

"We are following our formal procedures for dealing with a highly contagious infectious disease and a team of CVM veterinarians and veterinary technicians has been assigned exclusively to this case to further ensure the health of our other equine patients."

As an extra precaution while the infected mare remains quarantined in the isolation facility, the North Carolina State Equine and Farm Animal Veterinary Center will carefully monitor existing equine patients in the hospital and will accept only emergency cases for the next seven days.

"We have been fortunate that we've not seen this particular form of this common virus in North Carolina to date, even though it has been increasing in frequency throughout the country for almost a decade now," state veterinarian David Marshall said.

"We are working with the College of Veterinary Medicine and with the stable to implement biosecurity measures and minimize the risk of further spread."

EHV-1 is highly contagious among horses, but poses no threat to humans.

It most often causes respiratory infections in young horses, but different strains can also pose neurologic problems, which the affected horse in this case exhibited. The virus also can cause abortion in pregnant horses or neonatal death.

Vaccines are available that protect horses from most forms of EHV-1, but not from the strains that cause neurologic problems.

Biosecurity measures to protect horses include quarantining facilities that are suspected to house EHV-1-exposed horses. Water and feed buckets should be disinfected and not shared. Stalls and trailers should also be cleaned and disinfected regularly to prevent the spread of disease.

New additions or those returning from shows and exhibitions should be isolated for three weeks before mixing with other horses upon returning home.

Horse owners are urged to talk with their veterinarian to determine a vaccine schedule.