With horses being put down after reactors in Hampshire, the Equine Herpesvirus, EHV-1 outbreak is causing show centres closures and lockdowns. With the growing seriousness of this EHV outbreak and the continued monitoring of it on a daily basis, are you clued up? Understanding what EHV is, how it spreads and how to protect against it will help to minimise the risks to our horses.
What is Equine Herpesvirus (EHV)?
The nature of this disease allows it to spread quite readily and to date, 9 EHVs have been identified worldwide. The two main types of EHV which cause disease are EHV-1 and EHV-4. It has potentially serious health, performance and financial implications across every sector of the equestrian industry and it’s in every horse owner’s interests to understand it, to minimise the risks to our horses.
Related to human sores, shingles and chickenpox viruses, EHV-1 can cause severe effects including abortion and neurological disease, whereas EHV-4 usually leads to respiratory disease with only the rare abortion; neurological disease effect. As with human viruses, EHV lies dormant in horses after they recovery but is still be reactivated at any time and spread to other horses.
How is EHV transmitted?
To control the EHV outbreak it is important to be aware of how it is transmitted. The virus is transmitted by direct-to-direct horse contact via the respiratory tract through nasal secretions, infected nasal or ocular discharge can spray or travel through the air over short distances.
It is important to know that this virus can also be spread indirectly through contact with physical objects that are contaminated with the virus:
- Human contaminated hands or clothing
- Contaminated equipment and tack
- Contaminated trailers used for transporting horses
- Contaminated wipe rags or other grooming equipment
- Contaminated feed and water buckets
The virus can survive up to 7 days in the environment under normal circumstances but can remain alive for a maximum of one month under perfect environmental conditions.
What are the symptoms of EHV-1 & EHV-4?
Information sourced from Horse & Hound
- Hindlimb weakness or paralysis
- Lack of coordination
- Inability to control the bladder or tail
- Numbness throughout the skin of the tail and hindlimb area
- Inability to rise from a recumbent position
- Unfortunately, there are no apparent signs that a mare is going to abort a pregnancy due to the EHV-1 virus.
- High temperature
- Snotty or runny nose
- Dry cough
- Loss of appetite
- Swollen neck glands
What can you do to prevent the spread of EHV?
Vaccination against EHV is important because it helps tip the balance in favour of the horse’s immune system and limits the severity of an EHV outbreak. It reduces viral shedding, the severity and spread of the respiratory disease and the frequency of abortion.
Biosecurity means doing everything you can to reduce the chances of an infectious disease being carried onto your farm by people, animals, equipment, or vehicles, either accidentally or on purpose. Anything that touches an infected horse or sheds secretions from sick horses has the potential to transfer pathogens to other horses. You are the best protection your horses have.
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