The current Equine herpesvirus (EHV1) outbreak is worrying a lot of owners & riders in Europe. Here are a few key points to help you better understand EHV1 and manage your horse’s accordingly.
EHV-1 can cause respiratory disease (nasal discharge, swollen lymph nodes) or more rarely but more severe neurological symptoms (incoordination, ataxia, somnolence,...) or abortion.
After infection, the incubation period usually ranges from 1 to 6 days. The horses then usually have two peaks of fever 4 to 5 days apart. Adult horses can be symptomless and stil transmit the virus!
EHV-1 is very contagious and spreads either by direct horse-to-horse contact, by nasal aerosol or indirectly via contact with contaminated objects (equipment, tack, hands, clothing, feed or drinking bins, buckets, walkers, trailers,...). The virus can survive from a week to a month in the environment and it is essential to wash and disinfect boxes and all equipment in contact with the horse. Use your usual hand sanitizer before handling horses. Diagnosis is performed by PCR from a nasal swab (yes, like for SARS-Co19) or blood sample. Monitoring temperatures twice a day in exposed horses is a good way to prescreen.
Isolate and quarantine horses returning from a sensitive area or those with symptoms such as fever to prevent the spread FOR 21 DAYS. Isolation means housing them away from other horses in a different stables, not in adjacent paddocks and turning them out not in the same walker or arena If a horse has symptoms, immediately notify your vet and do not move any horses around. Supportive treatments may include anti-inflammatory medication. Antibiotics are only used if a secondary bacterial infection occurs as they have no effect on the EHV1 itself. Using a booster vaccination in asymptotic horses helps reduce risks of shedding and propagation for all horses and can attenuate symptoms in individuals if they come across the virus.
When in doubt, contact your vet !
We would like thank Equine Sports Medicine Practice for this very informative summary.