From Lisa J Davies
Equine Herpes Virus (EHV) has reared its ugly head again. There are two confirmed cases of EHV in Somerset, UK; which have caused events to be cancelled as horse owners batten down the hatches and confine their horses to their yards, in an attempt to thwart the disease.
What is EHV?
EHV is a common disease. Most cases are fairly mild and pass without much concern. However, at its worst, EHV can cause paralysis and death. EHV can also cause abortion in pregnant mares.
There are three types of EHV common to the UK. Type 3 is a sexually transmitted disease. Types 1 and 4 are airborne. The cases in Somerset were confirmed as Type 1.
Symptoms of EHV
EHV can be hard to detect as it can be mistaken for many other diseases. Some horses show no symptoms at all but can be carriers of the disease and will infect others.
- General unwellness
- High temperature
- A cough
- Nasal discharge
- Difficulty urinating
Pregnant mares can abort their foals up to 12 weeks after contracting EHV. Most abortions occur in late pregnancy, and are sudden and unexpected, with the mare appearing healthy and content a few hours beforehand.
If you suspect that your horse has EHV, you should isolate him, contact the vet, and advise any horse owners whose horses have been in contact with yours. The yard should be closed, with no movement of horses in or out of the yard.
There is no specific veterinary treatment for EHV. The vet may prescribe antibiotics to control any secondary bacterial infections that are present. The main treatment for EHV is rest, and a watchful eye to detect any worsening of symptoms.
Prevention and Control
Vets recommend that horses that regularly mix with other horses from outside the yard, should be vaccinated against EHV. Unfortunately, the vaccinations are only effective against the respiratory symptoms of the disease, and not the neurological. Vaccinations must only be given to healthy horses. Vaccinations given to horses that are suspected to be carrying EHV may make the effects of the disease worse.
EHV is highly contagious. As it is an airborne disease, it is easy for horses to pass it to one another. It can also be spread by horses touching objects that have been contaminated by infected horses. Simple hygiene measures, such as washing your hands after petting a strange horse, are recommended.
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