"Should I stay or should I go now?"
This is a phrase many horse owners are asking as a recent equine herpes outbreak in Oregon puts the brakes on many travel plans. So what is equine herpes virus and what are horse owners to do about it. Equine herpes virus or EHV -1, also referred to as ?rhino? or ?rhino virus? is a pathogen that frequently affects horses causing fever, depression and loss of appetite for several days. EHV -1 is also known to cause abortion in pregnant mares. In some horses, the virus will pass into the brain and trigger an often fatal neurologic form of the disease. That?s what really gets veterinarians and horse owners up in arms. EHV ? 4, a relative of EHV- 1, can also cause fever, depression and respiratory issues but has not been found to produce the neurologic form of the disease. To protect your horse from the effects of EHV -1 it is recommended that you vaccinate with a commercially available EHV -1 vaccine. The strategy is generally to vaccinate twice a year for horses that face increased risk due to traveling, showing or stabling in a barn where multiple horses live and travel. The standard vaccines available such as Zoetis? Fluvac Innovator plus EHV 1 & 4 or Merck?s Prestige II will provide reasonable protection for horses against the respiratory and flu like strains of the disease. For more complete protection, it is beneficial to booster with another EHV ? 1 vaccine that carries a larger antigenic load such as Zoetis? Pneumabort K or Merck?s Prodigy vaccine. Veterinary practitioners have reported that in the face of an outbreak, those horses vaccinated with the stronger EHV ? 1 products were much less likely to develop the neurologic form of the disease. In fact, many horses that have developed illness in past outbreaks had either no vaccination history or limited vaccine coverage. Okay, besides timely vaccination, what should you do when you get to a show or an event. Before you put your horses into the stall, take a few minutes to disinfect it. Lysol diluted in water is an excellent disinfectant. 1/8 of a cup of Lysol mixed with a gallon of water is all you need to spray down stall walls, buckets and tools. Remember, the community water hose is a great way to spread germs. Always fill your buckets directly from the water outlet, never from a shared hose. EHV -1 is easily shared by nose to nose contact. Minimize your horses? contact with others at the show, and use Wet Ones, disinfectant towels to wipe your hands after working with other horses. The incubation period for EHV -1 is 2 ? 5 days after exposure. The first sign of a problem is usually a fever. After returning from a show it is wise to monitor your horses? temperature for 5 days. The virus is not shed until fevers develop. If your horse spikes a fever, move it into quarantine and call your veterinarian.
Be safe, wear a helmet and vaccinate.
Bo Weeks, DVM