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EHV-1 has US ag officials on full alert

May 19, 2011


State agriculture officials across the US are on alert as information is gathered on the extent of the Equine Herpevirus 1 (EHV-1) outbreak.

Electron micrograph of EHV-1.

Death toll

As at 25.6.2011

New Mexico
About EHV

To date, 10 horses have been confirmed with the neurological form of EHV-1 in California, two in Colorado (where six other horses are showing symptoms), one in southern Alberta, and one in Washington state.

Evidence suggests the potentially deadly infection spread from horses who were at the National Cutting Horse Association's Western National Championship in Ogden, Utah, from April 30 to May 8.

The National Cutting Horse Association said there were credible, but not official, reports indicating cases in Utah, Idaho and Arizona.

"While reported cases of the virus are currently in Western states, the interstate transport of infected horses could cause a much wider spread of the virus if we are not all very cautious at this time," the association said.

The Utah Agriculture Department said that, as of 6pm on Tuesday, preliminary laboratory results of nasal swab samples of suspect cases found in the state had tested negative for the virus.

"This is not an uncommon finding from nasal swab sampling and we continue testing of clinically ill animals," the department said.

Oregon agriculture authorities said they had alerted veterinarians around the state to monitor for signs of the disease, but there had been none to date.

EHV-1, it said, had been confirmed in Washington and Colorado, and was suspected in Idaho.

Dr Don Hansen, state veterinarian with the Oregon Department of Agriculture, said: "At this time, we have no confirmed cases of this neurological EHV-1 strain in Oregon, but we are contacting all horse owners who attended the event with their horses."

EHV-1, while not transmissible to people, is a serious disease of horses that can cause respiratory, neurologic disease and death.

The most common way for EHV-1 to spread is by direct horse-to-horse contact. The virus can also spread through the air, contaminated equipment, clothing, and hands.

Symptoms include fever, decreased coordination, nasal discharge, urine dribbling, loss of tail tone, hind limb weakness, leaning against a wall or fence to maintain balance, lethargy, and the inability to rise. While there is no cure, the symptoms of the disease may be treatable.

Hansen said: "Strict biosecurity measures and hygiene practices are likely to be more effective than widespread vaccination in reducing the risk of acquiring infection because available EHV-1 vaccines do not seem to protect against this virus strain.

"Horse owners should be reassured that we have no reported EHV-1 in Oregon, but should also be aware that horses in other states may have been exposed.

"With many horses and their owners travelling to shows and competitions in the days and weeks to come, it is important to take potential risks into consideration and use caution."

Meanwhile, the Canadian state of Alberta said a case of EHV-1 with neurological symptoms had been confirmed in a Southern Alberta horse.

"The horse is isolated and is recovering," the state's agriculture department said.

Three more horses have also been confirmed by officials in British Columbia.



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