Neurologic EHV-1 Case in New Jersey

A Westampton farm is under quarantine after a horse was diagnosed with the highly infectious equine herpes myeloencephalopathy.

From the New Jersey Department of Agriculture

The New Jersey Department of Agriculture has quarantined a Westampton farm after a 5-year-old horse was diagnosed with the highly infectious equine herpes myeloencephalopathy (EHM) caused by equine herpesvirus type-1 (EHV-1) respiratory strain. EHM is the often deadly, neurologic form of EHV-1 infection.

The horse had rapid progression of clinical signs typical of EHV-1 including front and rear lack of muscle control, hind limb weakness, stumbling and right facial paralysis. The animal was humanely euthanized on February 14.

A 21-day quarantine was placed on the barn on the property and biosecurity measures are in effect for the duration of the quarantine.  All remaining horses will have their temperature monitored twice a day. Horse movement in and out of the premises has been analyzed and traces are being followed. To date, none of the other animals have shown signs of illness.

“The Department took swift action to prevent the disease from spreading to other horses by enacting a quarantine, which stops movement of horses in and out of the farm and puts in place preventive measures to contain the virus,” said New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher.

In 2013, there were three cases of EHM in New Jersey. There were no cases in 2014.

The EHV-1 virus spreads quickly from horse to horse, has a high morbidity and can cause a wide range of symptoms, from a complete lack of clinical signs to respiratory problems, especially in young horses, and spontaneous abortions in pregnant mares.  The neurologic form of EHV-1, additionally, can cause an acute paralytic syndrome, which results in a high mortality. The incubation period of EHV-1 is typically 2 to 10 days.  The virus spreads readily through direct contact with infected materials. While highly infectious, the virus does not persist in the environment and is neutralized by hand soap, alcohol-based hand sanitizers and sunlight.  The virus does not affect humans and other domestic animals, with the exception of llamas and alpacas.

Concerned owners should consult with their veterinarian prior to taking any action as the clinical signs of infection with the neurological form of EHV-1 (EHM) are common to many other diseases. EHM is a reportable disease in New Jersey.  If an owner has a horse that is exhibiting neurologic signs or suspects Equine Herpes, they are directed to call their veterinarian immediately.

The NJDA Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory provides testing for the neurologic form of EHV-1. For more information, visit www.jerseyvetlab.nj.gov or call 609-406-6999.

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