The two main strains of Equine Herpes Virus EHV are EHV1 and EHV4.
EHV1 is responsible for the outbreaks of Herpes infections in 2021. In addition to causing coughing, nasal discharge, abortion or weak foals, EHV1 cases can also develop severe neurological signs such as ataxia, recumbency and death. This was the case in Valencia earlier this year. EHV is an endemic virus disease which means that ca. 80% of all horses (like the human Herpes Virus) are infected. The virus in the body is latent, horses show no clinical signs. In cases of stress where in late Winter the immune system is at a low level, travelling, badly ventilated stable tents and many young horses from different areas meeting each other – all these caused ideal situation for an outbreak of EHV. The environment is ideal for the spread of infection and in this case the results were a disaster.
At the end of a normal winter, isolated cases of the neurological form of EHV1 are relatively common. If EHV cases of horses are noticed in a stable no horses must leave or enter the stables for 28 days. Then strict hygiene measures must be taken and affected horses must be isolated and quarantine as quick as possible. If all these conditions are met outbreaks can relatively easily be kept under control.
Vaccination against Equine Herpes infections is important to control the spread of infection but this must be done regularly before an outbreak occurs. Vaccinated horses can contract clinical disease including the neurological form but usually the symptoms are not so severe and the viral load that is spread is not so high. However, to improve protection all horses in a stable should be vaccinated.
If cases are suspected or horses are in an affected stable, then the body temperature should be measured twice a day. Early cases can then be detected and appropriate measures taken to prevent and stop the virus from spreading.
Equine Influenza in contrast is an epidemic disease and is not latent in the horse population i.e. the disease is brought in from the outside! The horses also have high fever, nasal discharge and coughing. Isolation and stable quarantined as quickly as possible is to be recommended. Vaccination against EI also plays an important part in the control of the disease.
It is extremely important to quickly detect all infected horses showing first signs of fever. With EquiGuardian you have the opportunity to quickly isolate the infected horses so you can prevent further spread of the virus among the healthy horses in the stable.
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Dr. Vet. Med. Juliette Mallison MA, Vet MB, MRCVS