MOUNT VERNON — A recent outbreak of the Equine Herpes Virus-1 has spread concern among horse owners across the country, particularly in the western states. Confirmed cases of EHV-1 were recently reported in as many as 34 horses in at least nine states while seven have died. The outbreak is being traced to the National Cutting Horse Association’s Western National Championships in Ogden, Utah, from April 29 to May 8, according to The Associated Press.
EHV-1 is a contagious viral disease of horses that can cause respiratory disease, abortion in mares, neurologic disease and even death. It can be spread by airborne pathogens as well as through feed, clothing, boots and hands. Humans cannot contract the virus, but they can be a carrier. The only animals able to contract the virus are horses, mules, burros, llamas, alpacas and camels. Symptoms of the potentially fatal disease include fever, sneezing, staggering and partial paralysis. It can take anywhere from two to 10 days after infection for any clinical signs of the virus to appear. It can then be one to two more weeks after the symptoms are gone that the virus has been shed.
While there are vaccines available to help prevent spreading EHV-1, they may not directly protect against the neurologic form of the disease, known as Equine Herpes Virus Myeloencephalopathy.