Virginia State Vet Urges Strict Biosecurity for Horse Owners

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) is encouraging all horse owners to go to its EHV-1 website, for updates on the outbreak of Equine Herpes Virus-1 (EHV-1) in several western states. A horse button on the homepage will take readers directly into the EHV site which contains updates on the situation, as well as fact sheets and biosecurity information.  VDACS recommends that horse owners and managers be aware of the signs of EHV-1 and practice good biosecurity to limit the spread of infection.  Horse owners should also consult their veterinarians about the immunization status of their horses.

Dr. Richard Wilkes, State Veterinarian with VDACS, says that to date, he is not aware of any Virginia horses infected with EHV-1 or of any horses that have come in close contact with infected horses. “It’s always a good idea for horse owners to practice good biosecurity,” he said, “but it is especially important whenever we have an outbreak of a highly contagious disease. I urge every horse owner, stable owner, equine event planner and everyone else who comes in contact with horses on a daily basis to be extra vigilant. We have seen a very high level of cooperation from federal officials and the affected states and I am cautiously optimistic that the current outbreak will not spread to Virginia. But the reality of our global world is that livestock owners must be constantly vigilant and observe strict biosecurity practices to protect our flocks and herds.”

Wilkes adds that EHV-1 is not transmissible to people, but it is a serious disease of horses that can cause respiratory distress, neurologic disease and death. The most common way for the disease to spread is by direct horse-to-horse contact. The virus also can spread through the air, contaminated equipment, clothing and hands.