A recent outbreak of equine herpesvirus type 1 (EHV-1), a highly infectious viral disease of horses, has been confirmed on a breeding farm in northern Tasmania. One mare died and several others aborted their foals.

According to Horsetalk, Rod Andrewartha, chief veterinary officer for Tasmania's Primary Industries Department, said owners of pregnant mares needed to be vigilant for signs of disease in their horses and take appropriate precautions not to introduce the virus.

"EHV-1 is a viral disease that can cause neurological signs and abortions in pregnant mares, and in some cases it can cause a number of mares in an affected mob to abort," Andrewartha said. "In the current case some of the affected mares were showing ataxia--that is they are unsteady when they walk and have their feet wide apart--before the abortions were seen. If you see ataxia or abortions in your horses, isolate them from other horses and contact your veterinarian."

EHV-1 is known to cause abortion, neonatal death, respiratory disease, and neurologic disease in affected horses. The virus can be spread through direct contact between infected horses, through the air, and via contaminated equipment, making it a concern where groups of horses are stabled. Particular care must be taken when introducing new animals to a property to keep them isolated from pregnant mares.

For more information on equine herpesvirus see our special report.

Disclaimer: Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.

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