EHV-1 Update: Nine Confirmed Cases in Florida

There have been nine confirmed cases of equine herpesvirus (EHV-1) and five deaths have been attributed to the contagious equine disease in Florida, according to an update from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services/Division of Animal Industry.

According to the Dec. 25 update, the confirmed cases were of seven horses in the Wellington area, one in Ocala, and one in Indiantown. The Department of Agriculture reported that the Ocala horse shipped from south Florida and had a direct link to one of the horses shipped in from New York Nov. 29. Although five deaths have been attributed to the current EHV-1 outbreak, only two of those cases could be confirmed by laboratory tests. The first case reported was a horse imported from Europe through the USDA New York Animal Import Center, according to the Dec. 25 advisory.

"There are 10 quarantined premises, seven in the Wellington area, one in Ocala, one in Jupiter, and one in Indiantown," the advisory stated. "Eight premises with confirmed cases are under state quarantine and two premises with suspect neurologic cases are under state quarantine. State and federal officials are working closely with veterinarians, owners, managers, and others in the affected equine industry to identify potentially exposed animals and suspect cases and to prevent further spread of the disease. Currently, there are not state or federal restrictions for horse movements into, within, or out of the state of Florida. Some premises and events have their own entry requirements. Contact your point of destination for specific information concerning any restrictions that premises/events may have imposed."

Steps agreed upon by industry and government officials to help contain the EHV-1 outbreak include the identification of potentially exposed animals with appropriate monitoring and bio-security measures taken, isolation and treatment of suspected cases, and coordination of control efforts by industry and state and federal representatives.

"The close working relationship between cooperators, stakeholders, and the public is the key to limiting the spread of this disease," the Florida agriculture department update stated. "Although EHV-1 can be a serious disease of horses and the virus can spread through the air from respiratory infection, transmission generally requires direct or close contact between horses. Transmission can also occur through contaminated equipment, clothing, and hands. Horses with clinical signs should be isolated and kept 40 feet or more from other horses. Owners with sick horses should contact their private veterinarian to examine and treat their horses. Veterinarians suspecting EHV-1 with neurologic signs are advised to contact state officials and follow protocols for collecting and submitting appropriate samples for laboratory diagnosis.

"While herpes vaccines are available, none are specifically labeled for the neurologic form of EHV-1," the advisory continued. "Concerned owners should discuss whether vaccination of their animals is recommended, the type of vaccines available, and the frequency of recommended vaccination with their veterinarian. Vaccination in the face of an outbreak will probably not prevent infection but may lessen respiratory signs and reduce viral shedding with future exposure."