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Canadian clinic reopens after EHV-1 case

July 4, 2011

The Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) at the University of Saskatchewan is now accepting all equine patients at its large animal clinic, ending an eight-day suspension of non-emergency equine clinical services to control the risk of equine herpes virus type 1 (EHV-1) infection.

Veterinarians reopened the clinic's doors to horses on June 29 after multiple clinical examinations and diagnostic tests confirmed that there was no spread of EHV-1 among horses at the veterinary college.

The WCVM voluntarily suspended its equine clinical services on June 21 following the confirmed diagnosis of EHV-1 in a Saskatoon-area horse that was brought to the clinic on June 18.

The horse was euthanized on June 19 due to the severity of the disease.

Diagnostic testing confirmed that the horse had the neurologic form of EHV-1, also called equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy (EHM).

Dr Chris Clark, a specialist in internal medicine at the WCVM, says clinicians have been monitoring the health of nearly two dozen horses housed in or outside the veterinary college's clinic.

None of these horses have shown clinical signs of the disease and all diagnostic tests are negative for EHV-1 infection.

"Based on the results of our investigation and after consulting with several equine infectious disease experts in Canada and the United States, all indications show that the potential spread of EHV-1 infection in connection to the original case has been successfully controlled at the WCVM."

He adds that clinical teams will continue to use safeguards including the screening of all equine patients for clinical signs of EHV-1 before admitting any animal to the clinic.

As a precautionary measure, owners of the horse that was originally diagnosed with EHV-1 will maintain a voluntary quarantine on their farm to prevent the potential spread of the disease to other farms.

Other horses on their premises have shown no clinical signs of EHV-1.

EHV is a common equine virus to which nearly all horses are exposed during their lifetime. It usually causes mild respiratory disease, but in rare cases, the virus can affect a horse's brain and spinal tissue and cause the neurological form of EHV-1 to develop.

Although the virus is highly contagious among horses and camelids (alpacas and llamas), it is not transmissible to humans and other animal species.

Clark says horse owners can prevent the potential spread of EHV-1 by following basic biosecurity measures at public horse events.

His key recommendations include thoroughly washing hands after handling horses, minimizing contact between horses from other herds and not allowing horses to drink from communal water troughs or buckets.



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