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State veterinarian urges caution from horse owners

Dr. Richard Wilkes, State Veterinarian with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, urges all horse owners to be mindful of biosecurity now that the summer show season is under way.

“Any time and any place that horses from different farms gather together, there is always the possibility of transmission of disease,” said Dr. Wilkes. “While we have not had any recent equine disease outbreaks in Virginia, owners need to be aware that horses can pick up diseases while traveling and bring them home to their own stables.”

Recently multiple horses in Tennessee have shown clinical signs of the neurological form of Equine Herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1) resulting in Equine Herpesvirus Myeloencephalopathy (EHM) and are being monitored by their private veterinarians and the Tennessee State Veterinarian’s office. The symptoms of EHM in horses may include a fever, nasal discharge, wobbly gait, hind-end weakness and dribbling of urine. The disease is often fatal. The virus is easily spread by airborne transmission, horse-to-horse contact and by contact with nasal secretions on equipment, tack, feed and other surfaces. Caretakers can spread the virus to other horses if their hands, clothing, shoes or vehicles are contaminated. EHV-1 poses no threat to human health.

VDACS recommends the following biosecurity measures for all horses that will come into contact with other horses at shows, trail rides, meets and other events:

·         Minimize direct contact, especially nose to nose, between assembled horses whenever possible.

·         Clean and disinfect equipment, feed, tack, stalls and other surfaces that are shared between horses.

·         Isolate and closely monitor horses that are returning from a show, trail ride or competition for a minimum of 14 days.

·         Clean and disinfect caretakers’ hands, clothing, shoes and vehicles that may be contaminated by other horses or equipment.

·         Consult with your veterinarian about a vaccination schedule for diseases of concern such as Eastern Equine Encephalitis, West Nile Virus, Equine Rhinopneumonitis, and rabies. Your equine veterinarian can also provide you with biosecurity recommendations that are specifically tailored to your horses and your facility.

Horse exhibitors and event goers can monitor their horses for early signs of infection by taking their temperature twice a day while at shows and reporting an elevated temperature to their veterinarian.  Veterinarians should report suspected neurological cases of EHV-1 to the Virginia State Veterinarian’s office at 804.692.0601.

More information on EHV-1 is available at A downloadable brochure about horse biosecurity is available on the USDA website at

augusta free press
augusta free press