In the last couple months, new cases of equine-herpes virus 1 (EHV-1) have been confirmed in California, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Iowa and Oregon. While the respiratory form of EHV-1, also called rhinopneumonitis, is very common, these recent outbreaks have involved the much more complicated neurological form of the virus.
The neurological form of EHV-1 infection can cause mild hind limb ataxia (lack of coordination), urine dribbling and an inability to void the bladder properly, loss of sensation around the tail head and thighs and weakness in the hind limbs. Unlike the respiratory strain, previous EHV-1 infection does not appear to confer protection against the neurologic form, and none of the available vaccines protect against the neurological form. The vaccines can, however, help decrease the amount of the virus that is shed.
These 8 steps will help you limit your horse’s exposure to EHV and other viruses when traveling and while at shows:
- If using a commercial hauler, especially one that travels throughout the country, ask about the company’s biosecurity protocol, including how often box stalls are disinfected.
- Take your own feed, water buckets and water hoses. If you must use a communal hose, do not submerge the nozzle in the water while filing the bucket.
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, making sure to wash between your fingers and under your nails. Keep on hand a disinfectant gel with 65-75% alcohol content. For the gel to be effective, it must stay wet for at least 10 seconds as you rub it in. If it dries before that time, reapply.
- Avoid letting your horse touch noses with other horses.
- Avoid letting other people touch your horse, and limit your physical contact with other horses as much as possible.
- Keep a container of disinfecting wipes handy and use liberally. Don’t forget to use them on the inside and outside door handles of your truck and trailer and your steering wheel.
- Do not take home unnecessary items such as hay that sat on the barn floor, dirty towels, etc.
- Wash and disinfect your trailer after shows. Be sure to use a phenol-based disinfectant, which is effective in the presence of organic matter such as manure. This video by Hagyard Equine Medical Institute gives step by step instructions for properly disinfecting a trailer.