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North Carolina Horse Owners Alerted to EHV-1 Outbreak

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has confirmed that four North Carolina horses from a Raleigh stable have been euthanized after contracting the neurologic form of equine herpes, commonly known as EHV-1. The stable has been quarantined and owners are advised to limit external contact among horses and to watch for any signs of illness.

“The virus is highly contagious among horses, but poses no threat to humans,” says Dr. Sam Jones, professor of equine medicine at the NC State University Equine and Farm Animal Veterinary Center. “EHV-1 is spread by direct horse-to-horse contact, by contaminated hands, equipment and tack, water buckets or food bowls and, for a short time, through aerosolization of the virus within the environment of the stall and stable.

“Signs of the infection include fever of 102°F or greater,” continues Jones. “Other presenting signs may be combinations of fever and respiratory symptoms of nasal discharge and cough. Some horses have reddish mucous membranes.”

According to Jones:

  • EHV-1 infection is usually associated with respiratory disease but has also been associated with late term abortion, neonatal foal death, and neurological disease.
  • Vaccines are available to protect horses from most forms of EHV-1, but not from the strains that cause neurologic problems.
  • Affected horses that develop neurological disease develop signs 7-12 days after the initial fever. They typically become uncoordinated and have trouble walking and standing. Difficulty urinating and defecating may also occur. Often the rear limbs are more severely affected than the front. Other advanced signs include extreme lethargy, abnormal function of the eyes or face, difficulty swallowing, and a coma-like state.
  • The EVH-1 incubation period of EHV-1 infection is highly variable. Measures to protect horses involve quarantining facilities and include disinfecting and not sharing water and feed buckets. Stalls and trailers should be cleaned and disinfected regularly. Detergent solutions or solutions of 1 part chlorine bleach to 10 parts water is effective for decontaminating equipment and environment.

The NC State College of Veterinary Medicine worked with the State Veterinarian Dr. David Marshall and the Veterinary Division in the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in combating the previous North Carolina EHV-1 outbreak in January of 2012.

EHV-1 is not a reportable disease to the Office of the State Veterinarian under state law, but owners are encouraged to inform the office of possible cases by calling 919.733.7601 to help control the disease. A veterinarian or owner with specific questions may call the NC State Equine and Farm Animal Veterinary Center (919.513.6630).

For more information, go to the NC Department of Agriculture’s Disease Alerts page