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Vet hospital affected by EHV-1 back in full swing

June 1, 2011

» Latest state-by-state EHV-1 wrap

The equine section at the Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital has reopened to all equine patients, but will continue to use extra biosecurity precautions.

The change to resume appointments for elective procedures revises previous limitations to accept only emergency cases that were enacted as a precaution in response to the recent widespread outbreak equine herpesvirus-1.

The hospital also remains open to all other animal patients.

Extra biosecurity measures will be enacted for all equine and camelid patients to help ensure patient safety.

These extra precautions include extensive screening of equine and camelid patients for health and recent travel history.

Owners of horses or camelids scheduled for appointments at the hospital also will be asked to monitor their animal's temperature for two days before their appointment and to develop an accurate history of their animal's recent travel and exposure to other horses and camelids.

If animals have been in contact with "stranger" horses or have signs of infection, they will not be denied services, but additional biosecurity measures will be taken.

In response to the outbreak, the hospital had restricted equine and camelid patients to emergency cases only as a best practice to discourage horse owners from moving their animals.

The hospital and equine section of the hospital has never been under quarantine due to the outbreak of equine herpesvirus 1, or EHV-1.

All horses brought into the hospital are routinely screened for disease signs and their recent history of travel and contact with other horses is always closely reviewed to help rule out possible exposure to contagious diseases.

Any horse that is thought to have a contagious disease, such as horses infected during the recent outbreak of EHV-1, is treated in an isolation facility that is separate from the main equine hospital and other equine patients.

The isolation unit is specifically designed for treating infectious disease cases. The unit is not physically connected to the main hospital and horses in the main hospital are not exposed to horses in the isolation unit.

Equine herpesvirus is contagious between horses and camelids, but cannot be spread to humans or other animals treated at the hospital such as cats and dogs. EHV-1 may cause only mild, flu-like illness in many cases, but some horses may become seriously ill with neurologic disease and pregnant mares can abort.

EHV-1 may be fatal in some severely infected horses. The most common way for EHV-1 to spread is by direct horse-to-horse contact. The virus also can spread through the air, contaminated equipment, clothing and hands.

Symptoms in infected horses include fever, decreased coordination, nasal discharge, incontinence, loss of tail tone and hind-limb weakness. Horses may also face lethargy or lean against a wall or fence to maintain balance. They may become unable to get up or stand.

Affected horses can be treated with supportive care, but there is no specific cure and some horses do not fully recover.

Colorado State University veterinarians are recommending that horse owners continue to use caution when deciding whether or not to transport their horses and that they continue to take biosecurity precautions, such as washing hands before and after contacting horses and limiting access to their grounds by other horses, which would allow transmission of EHV-1 and other contagious diseases.

The hospital and university Equine Center also recommend that anyone organizing an event involving horses or camelids follow the "no fever" policy proposed by the state government of California for horses attending any equine events.

The policy would require that all horses at an event will have temperatures taken twice daily and that these results are posted on front of stalls for inspection.

Any horse also could be subject to random temperature check by the show veterinarian or designated member of the veterinary staff during the event.

Any horse with a fever of 102 degrees or greater should be removed from any event and premises immediately (a normal temperature for a horse is 99 to 101.5 degrees for adults, and up to a half degree higher in foals or in adults on very warm days).

Some horses with a fever may not have EHV-1 or other contagious diseases, but the policy provides for an added layer of protection for all horses participating at events.



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