The death toll from the Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1) outbreak in Europe has climbed to 11 following a fatality at a veterinary hospital clinic in Valencia, Spain.
Official and confirmed figures supplied by the FEI indicate there have been five deaths in an equine hospital in Valencia, two at the competition venue in Valencia, two in Barcelona, and two in Germany. There are now nine countries with confirmed cases: Spain, Germany, Belgium, France, Sweden, Italy, Switzerland, Britain and Qatar.
The movement of horses away from events in Spain has resulted in the spread of virus to other premises in Europe and the Middle East.
There has been a confirmed positive for EHV-1 in a horse in Belgium after its return from the Spanish Sunshine Tour in Vejer de la Frontera in Spain. This horse, which was placed in isolation immediately on return to its home stables in Belgium, was a close contact of the first horse that developed a fever at the Vejer de la Frontera venue.
A case has also been confirmed in a horse at a livery yard adjacent to a major equestrian competition venue in Bedfordshire in Britain.
The quarantine on 16 horses housed in Barn D at the World Equestrian Center in Ocala, Florida, has been lifted following a negative EHV-1 test result. Competition will continue as scheduled at the venue, although horses that have travelled to another Florida competition venue and horses who have been exposed to horses that have been at other Florida competition venues in the last 10 days will not be allowed on the show grounds.
EHV-1 is a highly contagious virus that spreads between horses that are in close contact with one another. It can spread on people or objects but is more likely to spread horse to horse within the stable environment, and particularly in enclosed buildings such as American barns with shared air spaces. It does not spread over long distances in the air and is unlikely to spread between different buildings or yards without movement of horses, people or objects.
British veterinary authorities are urging horse owners and returning competitors to do all they can to prevent the spread of this fatal disease.
David Rendle, Chair of BEVA’s Health and Medicines Committee, British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA), said the consequences of this outbreak have been devastating and there is anxiety that horses returning to Britain may be carrying the virus. “To prevent this from happening, it is essential that returning competitors comply with the quarantine plans that have been put in place by British Showjumping.
“If returning horses are quarantined effectively, and ideally screened using suitable laboratory tests on their return, then the risk to the wider UK equine population is very small,” Rendle said.
“British Showjumping and the BEF have acted swiftly and responsibly with support from BEVA to put controls in place. Assuming that everyone continues to act responsibly and follow the advice then the risk of this fatal disease spreading among UK horses will be minimised.”
It has released guidelines for returning horses, which can be read here.