Monday, May 16, 2011


I received the following email from Nicole this morning:

Dear Nicole,

Kamloops Large Animal Veterinary Clinic
May 14, 2011

This is a quick update on the EHV outbreak in North America. It has hit British Columbia. The best way to control this disease is to slow down horse movement. Rhino, EHV 1 or Equine Herpes Virus causes fever, decreased coordination, 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.

Jennifer Jackson, DVM.

Kamloops Large Animal Veterinary Clinic

Equine Herpes Virus Confirmed in 2 Colorado Horses

The disease has been confirmed in 2 horses that came from the cutting horse show in Ogden, Utah. This is also the suspected cause of a illness in a horses that returned B.C. this week. NO horses in B.C. have died. It is recommended at this point that all horses that attended the cutting horse show in Ogden are quarantined at their home. All horses on those farms also need to stay home and have their temperatures taken twice daily. They should quarantine at home for 30 days.

EHV-1 is not transmissible to people; it can be a serious disease of horses that can cause respiratory distress, neurologic disease, and death. The most common way for EHV-1 to spread is by direct horse-to-horse contact. The virus can also spread through the air, contaminated equipment, clothing, and hands.

From what I understand, a ranch in Merrit has been quarantined. (UP DATE-I HAVE NOT HEARD ANYTHING TO CONFIRM THIS-AT THIS POINT IT APPEARS THAT THIS IS NOT THE CASE-READ BELOW). The Riverslide committee is meeting tomorrow to decide the fate of Riverslide. I will keep you updated to any information I receive..


"In British Columbia:

There are three confirmed cases in Vernon. These horses were at the Ogden show and all three have been contained and are being treated.
This posted by Paton & Martin Veterinary Services Ltd., Aldergrove, B.C.:
“First of all, there is no need to panic but we must be careful. We are monitoring the situation closely and are in contact with veterinarians in the area and the USA.

“There has been an outbreak of a neurological form of Herpes virus disease referred to as EHV 1. The outbreak is associated with horses that attended the recent Cutting Horse championship in OGDEN, Utah. This is a similar virus but different strain of what we refer to as “Rhino”. We vaccinate against the respiratory and abortion form. These vaccines do not protect against the neurological form. No vaccine in the market claims that is effective against the neurological form of the disease.

“Despite rumors to the contrary, following conversations with veterinary colleagues in the Province, it appears that the affected horses have been identified and are confined and quarantined in a single private stable in the Okanagan Valley. TO OUR KNOWLEDGE THERE ARE NO CASES IDENTIFIED SO FAR (May 16, 2011) IN THE FRASER VALLEY. The only horse in the Fraser Valley that was at Ogden, Utah is 9 days post-exposure and is showing no clinical signs.....

Here’s a selection of important information useful to the subject, and how it may affect your horses, and particularly, your traveling with horses at this time.

This is not an outbreak limited to cutting horses.

While one outbreak appears to have presented at the Ogden, Utah show, there is some information that at least one of the infected horses had already attended or passed through several Canadian equine venues. It is possible the virus was present in Alberta and possibly Saskatchewan before the Ogden show. Please remember, this is not confirmed. The point is, cross-contamination is certainly possible. Consider not only where your horses have been for the past 20 days, but also, who has been in contact with them, whether at an event, or at home.

The best preventative is common sense bio-security.

The virus is transmitted via direct and indirect contact, and to a lesser degree, through the air. Transmitting, or “shedding” the virus through respiratory channels is the most common, and generally lasts for seven to 10 days, but it can persist longer. If your horse has been in a high-risk situation, a 28 day isolation period is recommended by the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

(If your horse was present at the Ogden, Utah show, you should let your veterinarian know. And remember, while the disease is not reportable federally, it is in some provinces, such as Alberta.)

Don’t underestimate the power of indirect transmission such as nasal secretions left on equipment, tack, feed and other surfaces. The AAEP suggests it is “an important route of transmission of the virus. Indirect transmission occurs when infectious materials (nasal secretions, fluids from abortions etc.) are moved between infected and un-infected horses by people or fomites (inanimate objects).

Poor hygiene (such as lack of handwashing) and sharing of equipment are often responsible. People who have touched or otherwise come in contact with infected horses should change their clothes and thoroughly clean and disinfect their hands before handling other horses.”

Whatever event you’re planning on attending with your horses over the coming weeks keep in mind it has been suggested the virus can survive for up to 35 days, but only if it is an ideal environment.

Some trainer facilities, particularly those which had horses in Ogden have voluntarily imposed isolations on their own facility – no incoming/outgoing horses, no lessons – as a preventative measure. Considering the contagious nature of the virus, this is a pro-active course we should all appreciate.

What is the primary symptom?

Often preceding other signs is the presence of a fever. If you are concerned be sure to take your horse’s temperature twice a day. This is easily done with a rectal thermometer. If you need a refresher on how to do this, read here. The temperature of a normal horse is below 38.5°C (or 101.5°F). According to Moore Equine Veterinary Center, “It is best if you can keep a record of the rectal temperature trends in your horse. Most infected horses will only show mild respiratory signs including coughing and nasal discharge. Early signs of the neurological form of herpesvirus usually involve incoordination of the hind limbs, urine dribbling or being unable to urinate.”

Is there a vaccine?

While there are several vaccines against EHV available, none of them state any protection against the neurological form of EHV infection. Check with your veterinarian to determine the validity of booster vaccinations in your animal’s case.

We touched base with Ashley Whitehead at the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine to ask her some questions about the virus and what we can do to help prevent its prevalence in our midst.

There is some discussion that the cancelling of equine events for the next three weeks is in order. Is there wisdom in that, or is it overkill for the situation?

“The decision should be made with a risk assessment of the current situation. Any time we travel to a competition where there is mixing of horses from many locations there is a risk of transmitting infectious diseases. Many of us forget about this risk as we compete so regularly. At this time we don’t know the extent of the outbreak. Containing this virus is key to limiting the spread.”

The virus is carried airborne. How great of a distance do we need to worry about? Within coughing distance, or across the farmyard?

“The airborne aspect of virus is limited once it gets past the “coughing distance” but it can travel through ventilation as has been seen in previous outbreaks in veterinary teaching hospitals though this is a far less important method of transmission.”

Scenario: horse owner attended a horse show in a facility where two weeks prior, horses from a farm we now suspect was affected, were present. Should horse owner be concerned?

“Before answering I would ask a few more questions. My first questions would be: Are the “affected” horses confirmed EHV-1? Was there direct contact between the horses from the “affected” farm and your horses? Was there indirect contact (ie you or any object touched these horses, then touched your horse)? In most cases the answer to these questions will be no, but I would recommend monitoring rectal temperatures twice daily to watch for any signs of fever. Remember at this point only one horse has actually be confirmed positive with EHV-1 in Alberta and that horse has been quarantined appropriately. It is important to note that only a small portion of the horses that are exposed to the equine herpesvirus become neurologic. We are all concerned but at this point identifying any new cases (including horses that only get the respiratory form and horses that become neurologic) early and isolating them is key, so monitoring rectal temperatures is very important in any at risk horses.”

Thanks to Dr. Ashley Whitehead, instructor, Large Animal Internal Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Calgary, for assistance with this post. Thanks to Western Horse Review intern, Jesseca Johanson, and writer and blogger, Melissa Sword for their help with research.

Thanks to everyone else for checking in, I hope you find this information helpful.

Finally, please ensure you are not spreading misinformation during this time. It’s unfair, useless and can be detrimental to trainers and owners who are practicing due diligence.






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