Eight cases of Equine Herpes Virus – type 1 (EHV-1) have been confirmed with laboratory testing from horses, seven in the Wellington area and one in Ocala, Florida. The Ocala horse shipped from south Florida and had a direct link to one of the horses shipped in from New York, on November 29th. Four deaths have been attributed to this disease, although only one of those cases could be confirmed by laboratory tests. Nine cases have had neurologic signs. The index or first case reported was a horse imported from Europe though the USDA New York Animal Import Center.
State and Federal officials are working closely with veterinarians, owners, managers, and others in the affected equine industry to identify potentially exposed animals and suspect cases and to prevent further spread of the disease.
There are eight quarantined premises, six in the Wellington area, one in Ocala, Florida, and one in Jupiter, Florida. Six premises with confirmed cases are under state quarantine and two premises with suspect neurologic cases are under state quarantine. Currently, there are not state or federal restrictions for horse movements into, within, or out of the state of Florida. Some premises and events have their own entry requirements. Contact your point of destination for specific information concerning any restrictions that premises/events may have imposed.
Industry representatives and state and federal officials have agreed on a number of steps to contain this outbreak. These include the identification of potentially exposed animals with appropriate monitoring and bio-security measures taken, isolation and treatment of suspected cases, and coordination of control efforts by industry and state and federal representatives. The close working relationship between cooperators, stakeholders, and the public is the key to limiting the spread of this disease.
Although EHV-1 can be a serious disease of horses and the virus can spread through the air from respiratory infection, transmission generally requires direct or close contact between horses. Transmission can also occur through contaminated equipment, clothing, and hands. Horses with clinical signs should be isolated and kept 40 feet or more from other horses.
Owners with sick horses should contact their private veterinarian to examine and treat their horses. Veterinarians suspecting EHV-1 with neurologic signs are advised to contact state officials and follow protocols for collecting and submitting appropriate samples for laboratory diagnosis.
While herpes vaccines are available, none are specifically labeled for the neurologic form of EHV-1. Concerned owners should discuss whether vaccination of their animals is recommended, the type of vaccines available, and the frequency of recommended vaccination with their veterinarian. Vaccination in the face of an outbreak will probably not prevent infection but may lessen respiratory signs and reduce viral shedding with future exposure.
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