The death toll from the outbreak of the neurological form of Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1) in Valencia, Spain, stands at six, and more than 80 horses are undergoing treatment.
One of the latest two deaths was of a horse in Germany, who had competed in Valencia. The other death was in Valencia. The outbreak has led to the FEI cancelling events on mainland Europe for the month of March, and equestrian nations are working to devise specific protocols for returning horses.
EHV-1 is contagious and spread by direct horse-to-horse contact via the respiratory tract through nasal secretions or indirectly through surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus.
A meeting between Spanish Ministry Officials (MAPA), event organisers, event veterinarians, and FEI Veterinary Manager Gonçalo Paixão and FEI Jumping Director Marco Fuste in Valencia had led to an agreement on treatment protocols and a new plan for separation of horses following requests from athletes and owners for their horses to be grouped together without infringing biosecurity protocols.
Some of the additional temporary stabling delivered to the venue at the beginning of the week was unsuitable for large horses, however, replacement boxes organised by Katharina Offel of the International Jumping Riders Club were transported to the venue from the Spanish Sunshine Tour after thorough cleaning and disinfection.
The FEI is using data gathered from this outbreak to evaluate the effectiveness of the EHV-1 vaccine, seeing which horses in the total group of 752 that participated in Valencia have been vaccinated, which had symptoms or were asymptomatic, and which horses have died.
A German horse already in isolation at the Al Shaqab venue for the Global Champions League competition in Doha in Qatar after arriving from Valencia, has tested positive for EHV-1 and has been transferred to the isolation unit of the neighbouring veterinary clinic, together with a second German horse who has returned an inconclusive result and will continue to be retested.
A total of four horses that had been competing in Valencia arrived in Doha on February 20, having left the Spanish venue earlier in the month. Of the four, two Colombian horses had left Valencia on February 7, and the two German horses had departed from Valencia on February 12, eight days before the FEI being notified of the EHV-1 outbreak. All four horses remain in isolation stables.
The FEI has identified all 752 horses who had been in Valencia since February 1 and has blocked them in the FEI Database, meaning that they cannot enter any FEI Events until they have fulfilled the necessary testing requirements.
Based on the additional biosecurity measures already in place onsite at Al Shaqab, the fact that all other horses at the venue have returned negative PCR tests over the last two days and subject to several mandatory conditions, the FEI has agreed that this weekend’s competition can go ahead in Doha, but reserves the right to cancel the event if there are any changes to the current situation.
The conditions under which the event is allowed to continue include taking temperatures for all horses at least twice a day and recorded on a sheet outside each horse’s stable. Training times will also be adjusted to minimise numbers of horses in the warm-up and training arenas.
“Obviously there is no such thing as zero risk, but for the competing horses in Doha, there is no greater risk of infection than at any other event”, FEI Veterinary Director Göran Akerström said.
“Epidemiologically, the risk of further cases amongst other horses in Doha is negligible due to the biosecurity measures that have already been put in place, and the additional mandatory conditions agreed today. Obviously the situation will be monitored very closely and we have the option to cancel the event if things change.”
An eight-year-old warmblood mare in Ocala, Florida, has tested positive for EHV1 and confirmed to be affected with EHV-1 neurotropic strain.
The premises the mare had been stabled at was placed under quarantine with strict monitoring of the exposed population and heightened biosecurity measures implemented.
Florida officials are encouraging all facilities to isolate horses importing into Florida from the affected regions in Europe and enact strict biosecurity measures to include monitoring the horse’s health and taking temperatures twice per day for at least 14 days.
Kentucky State veterinarian Rusty Ford said with the protocols currently implemented and monitoring by Florida’s Animal Health officials, that he felt there was no immediate elevated threat to equine populations in Kentucky and that “at this time there is no need nor benefit to impose additional restrictions on movement from the Ocala area”.
As of March 3 international movement restrictions had not been put in place by the USDA’s Veterinary Services Department.