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Dutch events disrupted by EHV outbreak

March 11, 2012

An outbreak of the neurological strain of equine herpesvirus (EHV) in the Netherlands has disrupted horse events.

Electron micrograph of EHV-1.
The outbreak resulted in the cancellation of the Dutch Equestrian Federation's Indoor Championships, scheduled for March 9 and 10.

The federation has advised horse owners not to move their animals unless absolutely necessary.

"The welfare of horses and ponies always comes first," the federation said.

"We therefore advise members not to take unnecessary risks and, if in doubt, contact a veterinarian."

The virus has been detected in horses in Berg en Dal in the country's east, where several have died, and in Heumen and Woubrugge.

The federation said there were unfounded rumours of outbreaks elsewhere in the country. It said horse owners should ignore rumours.

The Dutch Horse Industry Council said on Friday there had been no new cases for several days.

Friday's test results on samples taken from 30 horses had all been negative, the council said.

It said the vet attending to sick horses in Heumen and Berg en Dal had said the horses on those farms with clinical signs were slowly recovering.

However, in Germany, about 20 kilometres over the Dutch border, near Aachen, an older horse with lowered resistance became ill and was euthanised. Laboratory testing confirmed the presence of the virus.

The horse had not recently been in the Netherlands.

The other 100 horses on the same farm showed no symptoms, the attending vet was reported as saying.

EHV is not transmissible to people. It normally causes mild cold-like symptoms, but the rare neurological form can result in death.

The most common way for EHV to spread is by direct horse-to-horse contact. It can also be spread by contaminated tack, equipment, and people's clothing. In addition, the virus can be spread through aerosols (airborne) for a limited distance.

Symptoms include fever, decreased co-ordination, 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.

Horse owners should isolate any sick horses and immediately contact their veterinarian. Any individual horse with clinical signs consistent with neurological EHV infection should be immediately placed in a separate enclosure for isolation.



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