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Guidelines for managing contagious disease outbreaks

Recommendations from the WA State Veterinary Medical Association, in response to the equine herpes outbreak in WA, 2018


Closely observe your horse and look for signs of possible infection, which include:


Fever of 102.5 degrees F or higher.

(Note; in our experience, a fever of 101 degrees F in an adult horse should get your attention and should be monitored, if consistent, consult with your vet.)


·    Discharge from the eyes or nose


·    Respiratory symptoms


·    Swelling of the limbs


·    Spontaneous abortions


·    Neurological signs such as unsteady gait, weakness, urine dripping, lack of tail tone and            recumbency.


Be sure to obtain and record the body temperatures of all horses on the premises twice daily, ideally first thing in the morning, and last thing at night, and before administering medications as some medications can lower body temperature.


Most importantly, if you detect any of the symptoms above, notify your veterinarian immediately. Your veterinarian may want to take nasal swabs for virus detection or blood samples for evidence of exposure to EHV – 1.




Although there are several EHV – 1 vaccines available in North America that control respiratory disease and/or abortion in horses, none of the vaccines provide protective immunity against EHV – 1, neurotropic form.




To protect your horse from becoming infected and help limit the potential spread of this virus, here are several things all horse owners should be doing.


1.   Monitor all horses on your premises for the previously described symptoms.


2.   Limit direct horse-to-horse contact.


3.   Limit stress to horses.


4.   Don’t share equipment between horses.


5.   Clean barn areas, stables, trailers or other equine contact surfaces thoroughly, removing all organic matter (dirt, nasal secretions, uneaten feed, manure, etc.) before applying a disinfectant. Organic material decreases the effectiveness of disinfectants. Mix disinfectants according to the manufacturer’s recommendation and follow their recommendations for contact time.


6.   Use footwear disinfectant and hand sanitizer when moving between areas.


7.   If you have a potentially exposed horse, restrict human, pet and vehicle traffic from the area where the exposed horse is stabled.


8.   Clean all shared equipment and shared areas, again removing dirt and manure before application of a disinfectant.


9.   Self- quarantine any horses with possible symptoms away from other horses and contact your veterinarian immediately.


The time between exposure and illness from EHV – 1 can vary from two to 14 days. By self-quarantining animals with possible symptoms, practicing good biosecurity on the farm, and during travel and contacting your veterinarian as soon as you suspect possible symptoms, horse owners can do a lot to prevent further spread of the virus.


Dr. Brian Joseph, State Veterinarian (edited for length)

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