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Photo: Christina Weese.

EHV-1 confirmed in Saskatoon horse

Diagnostic tests have confirmed that a Saskatoon-area horse with neurologic disease is a positive case of equine herpes virus 1 (EHV-1) — a common virus that causes respiratory disease as well as outbreaks of neurologic disease and abortions in horse populations worldwide.

The ill horse is in isolation at Sandhills Stables, a boarding stable near Saskatoon, Sask. The owners have placed their stable under voluntary quarantine since the EHV-1 diagnosis was verified by laboratory testing on Friday, Dec. 27.

Equine field service clinicians from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine’s Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC) are treating the afflicted horse and providing it with supportive care at the stable. The college’s veterinary team is also working closely with the stable’s owners to monitor the health of other horses on the premises and manage the situation.

EHV-1 usually causes mild respiratory disease, but in some cases, the virus can spread to other parts of the body. In rare cases, the virus can affect the nervous system and cause the neurological form of EHV-1 to develop. It can also cause abortions in pregnant mares.

EHV-1 is not transmissible to people and most animal species, but the virus is highly contagious among horses and camelids (llamas and alpacas).

EHV-1 is mostly spread when horses come in to contact with one another. Indirect contact — through situations such as sharing contaminated equipment or people moving between horses without adequately following hygiene measures — can also play a role in the virus’ spread. Another contributing factor is aerosol transmission over close distances, such as when horses cough and form infectious droplets.

WCVM clinicians urge owners to contact their regular veterinarian if any horses show potential clinical signs of EHV-1. Typical signs of the respiratory disease include fever, coughing and nasal discharge. The neurologic disease may be preceded by fever and respiratory signs. Different forms of the disease can occur at the same time.

To prevent further spread of the disease, WCVM veterinarians advise horse owners to wash their hands often, isolate any affected horses immediately and avoid all direct or indirect contact with other horses. Exposed horses (those that have been in contact with a known infected horse) should also be isolated as a precautionary measure.

For more detailed information about EHV-1, please click here to view a WCVM fact sheet.

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