New Jersey horse contracts neurological form of EHV-1

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A horse in New Jersey has been euthanized after contracting the dangerous neurological form of Equine Herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1).

Restrictions have been placed on the farm in Westhampton, Burlington County, where the horse lived, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture said.

The horse had rapid progression of clinical signs typical of the neurological variant of EHV-1, including front and rear lack of muscle control, hind limb weakness, stumbling and right facial paralysis. The animal was euthanized on February 14.

The department said on Thursday that a 21-day quarantine had been placed on the barn on the property and biosecurity measures were in effect for the duration of the quarantine.

All remaining horses will have their temperature monitored twice a day. Horse movements in and out of the premises have been analyzed and traces are being followed. To date, none of the other animals have shown signs of illness.

“The department took swift action to prevent the disease from spreading to other horses by enacting a quarantine, which stops movement of horses in and out of the farm and puts in place preventive measures to contain the virus,” said state agriculture secretary Douglas Fisher.

In 2013, there were three cases of equine herpes-related neurological disease in New Jersey horses. No cases were reported in 2014.

The EHV-1 virus spreads quickly from horse to horse, has a high morbidity and can cause a wide range of symptoms, from a complete lack of clinical signs to respiratory problems, especially in young horses, and spontaneous abortions in pregnant mares.

The neurologic form can cause an acute paralytic syndrome, which results in a high mortality. The incubation period of EHV-1 is typically 2 to 10 days. The virus spreads readily through direct contact with infected materials.

While highly infectious, the virus does not persist in the environment and is neutralized by hand soap, alcohol-based hand sanitizers and sunlight. The virus does not affect humans and other domestic animals, with the exception of llamas and alpacas.

Concerned owners should consult with their veterinarian prior to taking any action as the clinical signs of infection with the neurological form of EHV-1 are common to many other diseases.

EHM is a reportable disease in New Jersey.

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