Ask an Expert

Possible EHV Exposure

May 30, 2011

Are you worried that your horse might have been exposed to EHV-1? The American Association of Equine Practitioners offers advice on how to properly quarantine horses returning from events.

Question:

There is the possibility that my horse was at an event and may have been exposed to EHV-1. How do I handle my horse returning from events where they may have been exposed to EHV?

Answer:

Infections other than EHV-1 can also spread by horse-to-horse contact, so keeping a horse with a fever isolated is a very good practice in any case. However, any horse returning from any event should be isolated to prevent the spread of any infectious disease whether there is a fever or not.

If you handle a horse with EHV-1 and don’t wash your hands or change clothing, the infection may be transmitted to other horses. A solution of 1 part chlorine bleach to 10 parts water is effective for decontaminating equipment and environment. (Washing clothing in hot water with detergent and drying in a dryer is adequate and less damaging to clothing.)

If you’re confused about vaccinations, equine nutrition, first aid or anything else relating to horse health, then you need AQHA’s “Your Horse’s Health” DVD collection.

If your horse develops fever, respiratory signs or neurological signs, immediately notify your veterinarian and do not move the horse or horses in the immediate area. Alert those who have horses in the adjacent area to cease all movement of horses in and out of the facility until a diagnosis is confirmed by testing and a targeted plan for control of spread of disease is developed in consultation with your veterinarian.

For horses that may have been exposed to the infectious agents and therefore at risk for disease, there are some steps to take to minimize the risk of spread of the disease to their home facility. Even if these horses are returning home from events at which no disease was reported, and even if these horses appear healthy, precautions are needed at this time as these horses could bring it home and spread it at their home farm – this is the classic way this disease spreads:

  • These horses should be isolated from any other horses when they return to their home facility. Isolation requires housing them away from other horses (i.e. the horse should be stabled in a barn, turn out shed, paddock or another area where there is no contact with other horses), using different equipment to feed, clean and work with them that is used with any other horses, and rigorous hygiene procedures for horse handlers (hand hygiene, wearing separate clothes when contacting the horses, etc.). Please discuss this with your veterinarian.
  • We strongly advise owners to call their veterinarians to discuss how long to keep the horses isolated at home, but even if they don’t develop fevers this should be at least 14 -21 days.
  • These horses should have their temperature taken twice a day and recorded , as elevation in body temperature is typically the first and most common sign of infection – horses with elevated temperatures (101.5 degrees F or greater) should have nasal swabs and blood drawn by your veterinarian.
  • If a horse develops a fever and is found to be shedding EHV-1 then the level of risk to other horses on the premises increases significantly. Those affected farms should work closely with their veterinarian to develop a targeted management plan for situation, if it develops.
  • The AAEP has published “EHV Control” guidelines, which can be used by your veterinarian to assist you in developing a more detailed response plan.

From diseases and disorders to soreness and injuries, AQHA’s “Your Horse’s Health” DVD collection will help you keep your equine partners out of trouble. Order your collection today!

It is essential that the isolation facility have supervised oversight by an individual knowledgeable in disease control and quarantine procedures to avoid the possibility of spread of disease agents. When it comes to biosecurity, compliance with the small details of the plan matter and all personnel need to be informed of the plan to avoid inadvertent errors that can lead to spread of disease agents. Your veterinarian can assist you with this.

The American Association of Equine Practitioners