Wellington, FL – December 16, 2006 – In excess of 600 concerned people from the local equestrian community attended a press conference hosted by Stadium Jumping Inc., in the Jockey Club alongside the Internationale Arena at the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Center this morning.
Unfortunately, on a weekend when the site should have been teeming with horses and people at the AGA National Championships – canceled earlier this week – the issue at the forefront of everyone’s thoughts is the recently confirmed outbreak of Equine Rhinopneumonitis, also known as Equine Herpes Virus (EHV).
In an effort to keep everyone well informed, a team of veterinarians was on-hand to present the facts and answer questions with regard to this health crisis. Present were: Dr. Michael Short from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) State Veterinary Office in Tallahassee; Dr. Maureen Long from the University of Florida School of Veterinary Medicine, USDA Florida District Veterinarian Dr. Julie Gauthier; Dr. Dix Harrell, also representing the USDA for the Florida area; and central to the Wellington outbreak of EHV, Dr. Scott Swerdlin of Palm Beach Equine Clinic, inc.
Dr. Short outlined known information to date, including the chronology of the outbreak that focused on a shipment of horses imported from Europe and transported from the USDA quarantine facility in Newburg, NY, on November 29. Dr. Harrell confirmed that none of the horses had shown any clinical signs of the disease when they were released from quarantine. He did go on to say, however, that horses are not specifically tested for EHV before being released, “because it’s not a foreign disease.”
It was also confirmed by Dr. Short that of a total of the six cases of EHV that have displayed neurological symptoms, there have been three fatalities. Currently, only one barn is under a State quarantine order, although a second had been voluntarily quarantined, with test results pending. He added that the horse community must remain patient because, “What happens in the next three weeks will determine the next three months.”
Dr. Maureen Long from the University of Florida confirmed that EHV is a latent virus and can, therefore, be carried by horses that themselves show no clinical signs of the disease, a typical “… typhoid Mary scenario.” She was also quick to point out that there is an unfortunately “low chance of survival” for horses that exhibit neurological symptoms. “The good news is that we were on to this very quickly. The bad news is that it’s herpes.” Dr. Long continued by saying that “neurological signs are not always accompanied by fever. We have a high rate that are neurologic but don’t yet know how many horses may have been exposed to EHV.”
During her presentation, Dr. Long focused primarily on sanitization protocols based on the “best givens,” and also unequivocally stated, “I do not want to see people jump up at the end of this press conference and truck their horses a couple hundred miles,” reiterating the need for caution as stress is a known trigger factor for EHV.
Dr. Long also addressed vaccination issues, saying that while vaccinated horses may not be prevented from contracting EHV, it will certainly “blunt the fever and reduce the spread by reducing nasal shedding.” However, she also said that vaccinating now, when there has been no history of prior vaccination against EHV, could be contra-indicated because the vaccine itself might cause temperature fluctuations that could be misread.
Having been involved from the local onset of EHV, Dr. Scott Swerdlin outlined the area that is currently under a mandatory quarantine order: Pierson Road south to 120th West, and east from Rustic Ranches heading south to 160th. A voluntary quarantine order is also in place for the Southfields area. He reiterated that there was no difference between “mandatory and voluntary, and there are civil criminal penalties for breaking the orders.”
During his presentation Dr. Swerdlin said “We have to be proactive in order to stop it [EHV] in its tracks,” but didn’t think it was necessary to introduce a testing protocol into a barn where horses were showing no fever or clinical signs. He also said he couldn’t sufficiently stress the need for a collective effort among the equestrian community, especially with regard to the movement of personnel between stalls and barns.
It was suggested that all barns introduce footbaths for people entering and departing, all dogs and/or other “barn buddies” should be leashed and segregated, washing and/or sanitizing hands is vital for all barn personnel, likewise for any barn equipment and tools that may be used for multiple stalls – paying particular attention to “drinking buckets” according to Dr. Long who, in fact, also advocated the use of individual manure buckets and pitchforks, stressing that if a horse sneezes, the nasal discharge can be sprayed 35 feet!
Dr. Short confirmed that as of today’s date, there were no inter-State restrictions in force but strongly recommended that if horses are scheduled for shipment into the area, “wait seven days. A lot can happen between now and then” that could determine the course of the disease, with specific implications for the upcoming show season.
In this regard, Dr. Swerdlin said that there would need to be a 21-day period with no horses showing clinical signs (fever) of EHV before a barn could be deemed clear of infection. In the meantime, he suggested twice-daily temperature taking in order to identify early onset.
Overall, given the level of anxiety among local horse owners, the press conference was extremely informative and answered a great many questions in terms of the current situation and how the community can work together to ensure the earliest possible containment and eradication of this disease.
A hand-out entitled: EHV-1 Biosecurity Information Sheet contained the following information:
Horses stables on or surrounding the Wellington show grounds are to have temperatures taken a minimum of twice daily, with a temperature log being maintained for each horse. Horses whose fevers are 102.0 or are greater than one degree above their normal temperature should be reported to the State veterinarian’s office and the stable’s veterinarian. The horse should be isolated and samples taken by the stable veterinarian to include whole blood (EDTA tube) and nasal swab for PCR testing of EHV-1.
Precautionary measures for bio-security should be employed.,
1) Limiting admittance of people into the barns. Allow only essential individuals. When entering or exiting a stable or barn, use footbaths to disinfect outer footwear.
2) Wash hands with soap and water after handling each horse.
3) Minimize use of shared equipment. Equipment such as water buckets, lead ropes, grooming equipment, etc., should not be shared. Items belonging to each individual horse should be labeled. Other equipment should be disinfected daily and between each use.
4) Care should be taken when filling buckets and feed troughs. Neither the horse nor the feed scoop should have contact with the bucket or trough.
5) Multi-dose medications should not be shared between horses. For example, oral medication such as bute, banamine, surpass, etc.
Plus any additional biosecurity precautions the stable veterinarian or stable manager might deem appropriate.
Florida’s Association of Equine Practitioners website will be posting updates starting this afternoon, and hereafter with regard to on-going developments.http://www.faep.org
Photo Credit: EHV panel of experts addresses huge gathering of Wellington equestrians at WEF show grounds. © 2006 PMG Pictures/Peter Llewellyn
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<a href="http://www.equestrianmag.com/article/wellington-equine-herpes-virus-conference-12-06.html">EHV Conference Draws Huge Crowd of Concerned Wellington Equestrians</a> ~ EquestrianMag.com