Dr. Richard Wilkes, State Veterinarian with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), urges all horse owners to be mindful of biosecurity due to outbreaks of Equine Herpesvirus Myeloencephalopathy (EHM) in California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, Tennessee and Utah during the last few months. Horses of different breeds and different disciplines have been affected.
Due to the increased incidence and high contagiousness of this disease, also known as neurological EHV-1, Dr. Wilkes encourages Virginia equine owners to take extra precaution and practice even stricter biosecurity than usual at home and while traveling. Virginia equine facility managers and horse shows/exhibitions managers should keep complete records of the movement of horses on and off of their premises. Biosecurity guidelines and EHM resources can be found here.
“Any time and any place that horses from different farms gather together, there is always the possibility of transmission of disease,” said Dr. Wilkes. “While we have not had any recent equine disease outbreaks in Virginia, owners need to be aware that horses can pick up diseases while traveling and bring them home to their own stables.”
VDACS recommends the following biosecurity measures for all horses that will come into contact with other horses at shows, trail rides, meets and other events:
•Minimize direct contact, especially nose to nose, between assembled horses whenever possible.
•Clean and disinfect equipment, feed, tack, stalls and other surfaces that are shared between horses.
•Isolate and closely monitor horses that are returning from a show, trail ride or competition for a minimum of 14 days.
•Clean and disinfect caretakers’ hands, clothing, shoes and vehicles that may be contaminated by other horses or equipment.
•Consult with your veterinarian about a vaccination schedule for diseases of concern such as Eastern Equine Encephalitis, West Nile Virus, Equine Rhinopneumonitis, and rabies. Your equine veterinarian can also provide you with biosecurity recommendations that are specifically tailored to your horses and your facility.
Horse exhibitors and event goers can monitor their horses for early signs of infection by taking their temperature twice a day while at shows and reporting an elevated temperature to their veterinarian. Veterinarians should report suspected neurological cases of EHV-1 to the Virginia State Veterinarian’s office at 804.692.0601.
The Virginia State Veterinarian’s office will continue to operate with elevated regulatory surveillance and equine health inspection activity. If an EHM outbreak occurs in Virginia, VDACS will post updates here, via the Virginia State Veterinarian e-mail list and through Facebook postings and Twitter feeds. A downloadable brochure about equine biosecurity is available on the USDA website.