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Fatal case of EHV-1 in southern Ontario

January 22, 2012

A fatal case of the neurological form of equine herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1) has been confirmed in southern Ontario, Canada.

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs said a blood sample from a horse with severe neurological signs tested positive for EHV-1 in early January.

The horse was euthanized after its condition deteriorated.

On a second farm in the same area, another horse with similar signs was euthanized in late December.

No samples were collected from that horse.

In 2011, there was one laboratory-confirmed case and one suspect case of the disease in Ontario.

EHV-1 infection in horses can cause respiratory disease, abortion, neonatal foal death, and/or neurological disease. Neurological signs include loss of muscle coordination, lethargy, inability to urinate, reduced tail tone and/or head tilt.

It is not a federally reportable disease.

EHV-1 is easily spread by sharing contaminated equipment, contact with an animal carrying the virus, or by the clothing, hands or equipment of visitors to farms who recently had contact with an infected horse.

The department urged all horse owners to practice vaccination and appropriate biosecurity protocols and procedures for horses and equipment coming on and off farms, particularly if traveling to shows or events.

It said current EHV vaccines may reduce viral shedding but are not protective against the neurological form of the disease. Implementing routine biosecurity practices is the best way to minimize the spread of this disease, it said.

"Increased vigilance is needed in the equine industry at this time," a spokesman said.

"In cases of neurological disease, a veterinarian's first obligation is to rule out rabies if the animal dies or is euthanized, by submitting a brain sample to Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Appropriate personal protection, such as gloves and a face shield, should be used when collecting samples."



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