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Equine herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1) causes many problems, including abortion, respiratory disease, neurologic disease, death in newborn foals, and a newly recognized syndrome described as peracute pulmonary vasculitis of adult horses (which strikes adult horses in their lungs and kills them almost overnight).
EHV-1 has the potential to cause devastating outbreaks and shut down much of the industry, especially the racing industry. Ryan Quarles is the featured presenter for the Kentucky Equine Networking Association meeting in May. Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.
December 17, 2014, Charlotte Dujardin and Valergo - jaw-dropping perfection, breaking yet another dressage score record. Of course, the hay prices affect us all and high prices are likely to continue this year in some parts of the country due to a competitive export market, water availability, and the high price of fuel.
There are several competitors on the market, but they basically all offer products that, at least on the surface, appear quite similar. The cost and number of units you need due to the number of horses you feed may be the downside.
Visitors should make other plans if they were hoping to visit The National Stud in Newmarket, England this week. With more than fifty Thoroughbred training stables, two major racetracks, and approximately 3,000 racehorses, an estimated 28 percent of all the racehorses in Britain call Newmarket home.
Given the close proximity of horses to each other in the town, the shared training gallops and the constant transit of horses in and out of town daily to race elsewhere in England, it's likely that a band of angels is looking out for the health of the residents.
The British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) quickly issued an announcement of the situation for member veterinarians, noting that the affected horse, a filly, was fully vaccinated and was being held in isolation.
Great Britain does not require formal reporting of EHV, although the Horse Racing Betting Levy Board (HBLB) does recommend it strongly, particularly in the case of what it calls "paralytic" EHV.
In addition to AHT's work diagnosing EHV, Newmarket can also claim to be the home of at least two of Britain's largest and well-known equine hospitals, Rossdale's and the Newmarket Equine Hospital. Fran Jurga keeps you up-to-date in this blog on news about horse health, care, equine science and research that affects horses.
USDA Files Proposed Soring Rule Change for White House Approval: Will pad stacks be banned? There are many types of herpes virus in horses with EHV-1 and EHV-4 causing the most serious problems. Neurological signs - hind limb weakness and incoordination leading to paralysis and the inability to stand. EHV-1 is responsible for any of the above clinical symptoms whereas EHV-4 tends to cause only respiratory disease.
A vaccine is available which will reduce the clinical signs due to infection with EHV- 1 and EHV-4 and reduce abortion caused by EHV-1.
Vaccination does not protect against the neurological form of the disease and generally it is not recommended to vaccinate in the face of an outbreak.
It is advisable to vaccinate pregnant mares during the 5th, 7th and 9th months of pregnancy to reduce abortion caused by EHV-1 infection.
The neurological form of equine herpes virus-1 (EHV-1) is a worrying disease for horse owners on several levels. The death rate among infected horses is concerning enough, but the highly infectious nature of the virus and an apparent marked growth in the number of cases in recent years have scientists working overtime to find a vaccine and medications that will improve survival rates. On top of that, nearly a third of horses that contract the neurological form die or are euthanized.
Scientists are piecing together the puzzle around a potentially fatal virus that is little different from the standard EHV-1 strain that usually causes little more than a cold.
Researchers at Cornell University in New York have found that a change in just one amino acid is the difference between the milder strain and the life-threatening neurological form, which is sometimes called the mutant or neuropathogenic strain. Cornell microbiologists discovered that a single amino acid variation in an enzyme that is part of the DNA copying process of EHV-1 creates a different type of EHV-1, which causes the neurological disorders in horses.
Although the mutant strain of EHV-1 is most frequently associated with neurological disease, the more common strain, sometimes referred to as the wild-type, has also been known to be associated with such cases. The researchers postulate that herpes viruses tend to evolve toward strains that produce less disease, so they think that the more virulent neurological strain of EHV-1 is older than the milder type. Three of these — EHV-1, EHV-3, and EHV-4 — pose the most serious health risks for domesticated horses and can have significant economic impacts on the equine industry.
EHV-1 can cause four manifestations of disease in horses, including a neurological form, respiratory disease, abortion, and neonatal death. EHV-3 causes a venereal disease called equine coital exanthema that affects the external genitalia. EHV-4 causes a non-fatal upper respiratory tract disease in foals and is uncommonly associated with abortion and rarely with neurologic disease.
The neurologic form of EHV-1 causes what veterinarians call Equine Herpes Virus Myeloencephalopathy (EHM). Neurological signs appear as a result of damage to blood vessels in the brain and spinal cord associated with EHV infection. Initial exposure generally occurs in foals from contact with their mothers, usually by respiratory shedding.
It can also be spread indirectly through contact with physical objects contaminated with the virus, such as tack, rugs, water containers, feed buckets, people’s hands and clothing.
The incubation period for the disease may be as little as 24 hours, but is typically 4-6 days.


Respiratory disease caused by EHV-1 is most common in weaned foals and yearlings, often in autumn and winter. Normally, EHV-1 infection takes hold in the upper respiratory tract, causing a mild respiratory disorder.
Cases of abortion triggered by the disease usually occur without warning, typically late in pregnancy – after eight months. As indicated, the neuropathogenic, or mutant, strain is associated with most of the neurologic cases identified. The mutation appears to result in more rapid reproduction of the virus, resulting in higher levels of circulating virus in the bloodstream, causing more severe symptoms and leading to abortion and neurological disease.
Scientists have shown through testing that this mutation has been present in outbreaks throughout the world for at least 30 years. Shedding of both forms of the EHV-1 virus by the respiratory route typically lasts for 7-10 days, but can persist much longer, possibly for three weeks or more. After infection with EHV-1, the virus eventually becomes inactive in the horse’s body, setting up a carrier state that is life-long.
It is this ability to reside as a silent and persistent infection in horses which provides a reservoir of virus for continual transmission. Authorities acknowledge the growing prevalence of EHV-1, saying it appears to meet the criteria of an emerging disease, in that the neurological form appears to be growing in severity. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (Aphis) of the US Department of Agriculture points out it is possible that the reporting of EHV-1 cases has increased, rather than an actual increase in the number and severity of cases. Symptoms from the neurological form include a fever, usually before the neurological signs.
Care for a horse extends to minimising the effects of the illness, in the hope that the horse will remain well enough to survive the infection. Antiviral drugs have been used to treat some cases, but research is not entirely clear on their effectiveness, or what constitutes the ideal time to give them to an infected horse. In the absence of a vaccine labelled as being able to prevent the neurological form, horse owners must minimise risk by adopting prudent biosecurity measures.
These include rigid quarantining of the sick animal until the risk of transmitting the infection has passed. Any horse that has aborted or shown signs of fever, respiratory disease, or neurologic disease should be separated from healthy horses.
Ideally, sick horses should be moved into a separate building or paddock on the premises, or be taken to a veterinary hospital with an isolation facility. Do not share equipment among horses on the property, given that the virus can be spread through contaminated objects such as water and feed buckets, even bridles. Horses carrying EHV may appear to be perfectly healthy yet spread the virus via the secretions from their nostrils. Wearing gloves and using disinfectant to sanitize footwear can also help minimize the risk of people spreading the virus between animals. Evidence indicates that the virus will typically remain capable of infecting a horse for probably less than seven days in most practical field situations, but in ideal conditions may persist for up to 35 days. Vaccines exist to control the respiratory and abortion manifestations of EHV-1, but are not proven against the neurological form. Aphis acknowledges that the increase in EHV-1 outbreaks is worrying, because they likely fit the criteria of a disease that is evolving and changing in virulence and behavior. In the United States, reports of neurologic EHV-1 outbreaks were sporadic before 2003, with typically none or few outbreaks identified annually. The number of reported outbreaks in the US has increased, and the numbers infected in an outbreak appear to be much higher than what was seen before 2001.
It is also unclear what role the poor immune response to the mutated strain is playing in the outbreaks of recent years.
The factors involved in this emergence are not clear as yet, but several have been suggested. An Aphis paper entitled Equine Herpesvirus Myeloencephalopathy: Mitigation Experiences, Lessons Learned, and Future Needs, noted that EHV was a focus of presentations at multiple equine industry and veterinary meetings in 2007, illustrating concern within the equine industry related to the disease.
Much remains to be learned about the disease, but clinicians largely agree there is ongoing need for critical evaluation of available literature, vaccine development and further research into the potential effectiveness of exisiting vaccines, and a faster test for detecting the disease that distinguishes between the neurological strain and the non-neurological strain.
They have also identified the need for more information on individual animal risk factors, transmission characteristics, latency studies, and prevention options. A 2009 consensus statement from a panel of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine in 2009, laid out the challenges ahead. Past exposure produces a limited period of protection from re-infection, of as little as 3 to 6 months, but there are no reports of horses repeatedly affected by EHM, although the rarity of the disease may be a contributing factor. Pregnancy: Abortion can occur in mares of any age, although it is largely restricted to the last trimester of pregnancy. Rectal temperature: Horses with high fever and high fevers occurring several days after the initial onset of fever, are more likely to develop EHM. Introduction of horses to a herd is commonly reported before the development of EHV-1 outbreaks, and specifically before EHM outbreaks. Breed and sex were identified as risk factors for EHM in 1 epidemiological survey, with ponies and smaller breeds less commonly affected, and females more commonly affected. Stress factors: Outbreaks of EHV-1 disease are anecdotally associated with stress factors, including weaning, commingling, transportation, and concurrent infections. Immunological status has been proposed to have an association with the development of EHM, specifically as a result of vaccination.


Professor Peter Timoney, of the Gluck Equine Research Center at the University of Kentucky and chairman of the Infectious Diseases of Horses Committee of the United States Animal Health Association, notes that the mutant strain that causes neurological disease has been identified among isolates of EHV-1 made before 2000. Based substantially on materials from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the US Department of Agriculture, and the consensus statement from a panel of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine. However, in recent years there has been an increase in the number of EHV-1 neurologic cases worldwide. Continuing research offers hope that soon we'll understand how the terrifying neurologic EHV-1 disease occurs, and what to do to prevent it. Therefore, owners of affected horses should wash and disinfect their hands and change their clothes before coming into contact with healthy horses to prevent the potential spread of these infectious organisms. The beautiful 500-acre facility owned by The Jockey Club is closed by a neurological equine herpes isolation case in an arriving filly. One of Great Britain loveliest showplaces for the Thoroughbred horse, and one of the few places open to the public, is facing the same thing as at least two racetracks in the United States: Equine Herpes Virus. A retrospective report on that situation by the USDA revealed that quarantines varied from 14 days to three months, that diagnostic tests were performed in multiple laboratories, and that the persons with authority to report a case and impose quarantines or movement restrictions varied between states.
As luck would have it, the Animal Health Trust (AHT) equine research facilities are located right in Newmarket. EHV is widespread in the horse population with most horses carrying the virus but not showing clinical signs of the disease. For the general horse population, vaccination combined with biosecurity and hygiene measures, will reduce the risk of your horse getting the virus and contribute towards the concept of herd immunity.
Try to keep pregnant mares and young stock separate to reduce the risk of disease to the mares.
Try not to worry- most cases will not develop neurological signs and most horses will make a full recovery. Quarantines and tracing efforts funded by authorities to prevent its spread amount to millions of dollars annually in the United States. Scientists are not entirely sure over what distance the virus can spread in this manner under typical horse management and environmental conditions. Older horses are more likely than younger ones to transmit the virus without showing signs of infection. It can, however, infect deeper respiratory tissues and get into the blood stream, giving it a route to the uterus and nervous system, where abortion or neurological disease can result. They are capable of shedding virus, with or without clinical disease, particularly at times of stress, for the rest of their lives. However, most researchers appear to agree there has been an increase in the number of cases involving neurological disease triggered by the mutant strain. An affected horse is likely to show poor coordination, urine dribbling, loss of tail tone, hind limb weakness, and may lean against a wall to help maintain balance. Researchers are studying several existing vaccines to determine if they may offer some degree of protection against the neurological form, and new vaccines are also being assessed. The economic impact is substantial, not only through horses lost to the disease, but the many costs associated with treatment, quarantines, cancelled events, and the inability of horses to compete. EHM can occur in horses of all ages, and has been reported in weanlings, both naturally occurring and experimentally induced. However, the association between increased use of vaccines and development of EHM described in that study was completely confounded by the fact that vaccination frequency was greatest in older horses, and EHM was strongly associated with greater age.
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The jury is still out on whether it's worth investigating, and we'd love to hear your feedback on this subject. Even defining what comprises an "outbreak" can be open to interpretation by different authorities or states. AHT is a major center for research into contagious equine diseases and also a World Organisation of Animal Health (OIE) reference laboratory for EHV-1. Events are canceled to reduce the risk of spread and dozens of competition horses end up confined to their stalls or properties.
Antibiotics may be used to treat a secondary bacterial infection if one develops, but they will have no effect on the herpes infection itself. Movement could result in introduction of the virus to a new population; it is also possible that transport stress plays a role in allowing the disease to express itself or re-emerge from the latent stage. However, in a large epidemiological study conducted in The Netherlands, EHM was largely restricted to horses over 3 years of age, and age 4 to 5 years was similarly associated with an increased risk of EHM in a recent large North American outbreak. For example, the authors found only one published report of this condition in Australia or New Zealand and, anecdotally, there have been only a very small number of cases recorded in those countries. The association of increased age with EHM risk is reported in populations of horses in which vaccination is not practiced.
The reactivation of the virus comes without warning but is often associated with stress such as transportation or weaning. Once reactivated the virus causes disease in the horse and rapidly spreads from one horse to another.



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