Florida EHV-1 Outbreak Update

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services continues to investigate the Equine Herpesvirus - type 1 outbreak.
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The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services continues to investigate the Equine Herpesvirus - type 1 outbreak.

December 20, 2006 -- Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles Bronson says the department's Division of Animal Industry is continuing the investigation into the presence of Equine Herpesvirus - type 1 (EHV-1) in several areas of the state including Wellington, Jupiter and the Ocala area. EHV-1 can be a serious disease of horses and the virus can spread through the air from the respiratory route of affected horses. Transmission can also occur through contaminated equipment, clothing and hands.

So far, seven horses have tested positive for the virus through lab tests. All confirmed cases are under quarantine.

Here is a chronology of events:

Five horses imported from Europe were brought to Florida from the New York animal import station, a quarantine station for imported horses; three more horses were picked up en route in Huntington, N.Y., and one in Darlington, Md. When the truck arrived on November 29 in Wellington, Fla., one of the horses from the import station was ill. That horse is now recovering but two horses that were stabled with the index horse at the original facility became ill and died. A lab test on one of those horses confirmed EHV-1. The facility, JN and Company is currently under state quarantine and the horses are being closely monitored. No horses are allowed to enter or leave the premises.

The Maryland horse had been transported to another Wellington location, Southfields Training facility, and died on December 2. While no lab test was done, because of its exposure to the disease, the Southfields facility voluntarily restricted all movement of horses. Late December 19, a lab test confirmed a positive case within that facility at the Palm Beach Equine Sports Complex, which is part of the Southfields Training facility. There is a second suspect case there awaiting lab test confirmation. The Department is also placing this facility under quarantine.

A horse that was exposed to the virus during the shipment into Florida was treated at the Palm Beach Equine Clinic and is believed to have been a possible link to the horse in Ocala, which was at the clinic at the same time. The Ocala horse has tested positive for EHV-1 and was transported to Ocala on December 11. The horse was ill when it arrived and was immediately isolated from all other horses at the Ocala location, Tuxedo Farms. The horse continues to be isolated and a portion of that facility is also under quarantine.

The Palm Beach Equine Clinic indicated it is contacting the owners of all horses that were there at the same time as the index horse to make them aware of the situation and find out if any of the horses are exhibiting any signs of EHV-1. So far the department has received no reports of any other horses that were at the clinic showing disease signs.

A horse at Pinehurst Stables, in Jupiter, Fla., has also been reported with neurological symptoms of the disease and a sample has been submitted for a lab test.

The Division of Animal Industry is working closely with veterinarians and equine facilities in the impacted locations to monitor the animals and assist with testing.

Owners with sick horses should contact their private veterinarian to examine and treat their horses. Veterinarians suspecting EHV-1 with neurological signs are advised to contact state officials and follow protocols for collecting and submitting appropriate samples for laboratory diagnosis.

Horse owners in the impacted areas are being asked to follow biosecurity measures until the virus is controlled. The measures are:

  • Have temperatures taken a minimum of twice daily, with a temperature log being maintained on each horse. Horses with fevers greater than 101.9 or one degree above their normal temperature should be reported to the stable's veterinarian. The horse should be isolated and EHV-1 samples should be taken by the stable veterinarian.
  • Limiting admittance of people into the barn area to only necessary personnel.
  • When entering or exiting a stable or barn use foot baths to disinfecting outer foot wear and wash hands.
  • Washing hands with soap and water or using a dry disinfectant after handling each horse.
  • Minimizing the use of shared equipment. Equipment such as water buckets, lead ropes, grooming equipment, etc. should not be shared between horses. These items should be labeled as belonging to an individual horse. Other equipment such as twitches, shovels, forks and bits should be disinfected daily and between each use.
  • Care should be taken when filling water buckets and feed troughs. Neither the hose nor the feed scoop should have contact with an individual horse's bucket or trough.
  • Multi-dose oral medications should not be shared between horses.
  • Any additional biosecurity precautions the stable veterinarian or stable manager recommend.

Fran Jurga keeps you updated on the outbreak in The Jurga Report: Horse Health Headlines blog.