KAREN GRIFFITHS’ HORSEPLAY COLUMN: How to avoid equine herpes virus

MUCH HAS TRANSPIRED in the horse world since my last column.

As it went to print two weeks ago, my inbox became inundated with news of canceled shows and trail rides in every state on the West Coast due to the outbreak of the neurologic form of equine herpes virus-1 (EHV-1) called equine herpes virus myeloencephalopathy (EHM).

What does this mean for us? Basically, we are asked not to travel with our horses for at least 30 days or longer if we hear of more horses coming down with the virus.

The good news is people have been following the advice not to travel with their horses.

I’ve learned the virus only lives about two weeks, but it can also live for two weeks on the ground after a barn’s been vacated, so if there are no new reports of outbreaks within a 30-day period, we can resume traveling to shows, group trail rides and other events.

Use caution when traveling

As always, be cautious when traveling.

Prior to travel, you might check for travel advisories, as many states, including Washington, are requiring health certificates to cross state lines. Here’s the link: http://tinyurl.com/3g5lbf7.

So what is it? Basically, EHV-1 and EHM have been around for years and in all parts of the world.

It’s thought that all horses older than 2 years of age have been exposed to it, similar to herpes simplex virus type 1 in humans, which affects about 85 percent of the world’s population at some point during childhood.

Following initial exposure, EHV-1 remains in a dormant state. But when it does erupt, it is highly contagious, and the neurological form is often fatal.

What happened?

So what happened recently? Cases of EHV-1 and EHM were identified recently in horses that attended the National Cutting Horse Association’s (NCHA) Western National Championship event in Ogden, Utah, held from April 29 to May 8.

A few competing were from Washington state. However, to date, no cases of the horse virus have been confirmed on the North Olympic Peninsula.

State and federal officials are developing standardized recommendations to quarantine exposed horses and monitor them for signs of EHV-1, as well as work with private veterinary practitioners to test and treat affected horses.

According to www.usda.gov and a report from the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, signs of EHV-1 include fever, respiratory signs of nasal discharge or cough, and neurological signs, such as difficulty standing, lack of coordination and difficulty controlling urination.

While several vaccinations are available for the respiratory form of EHV-1 there is none for the neurological EHM.

Vaccination is highly recommended, along with preventing the spread of the disease through isolation, quarantine and the practice of biosecurity — a series of management steps to prevent spread (one method is to wash hands and boots and then step in a bleach solution, one part bleach to 10 parts water, prior to entering and exiting a horse barn, plus frequent washing of hands or the use of hand sanitizers).

Other recommendations include avoiding petting other horses and taking one’s own horse’s temperature twice a day when traveling to check for fever (and contacting a veterinarian if the horse does have one).

Until then, spend some time enjoying your horse at home and preparing for your next show or ride.


■ 9 a.m. Sunday, June 12 — Open Horse Performance Show sponsored by the Clover Cut Riders 4-H Club and the Jefferson County 4-H Horse Program at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, 4907 Landes St., Port Townsend.

All are welcome to participate or come and watch.

Phone Tanya Schweitzer at 360-301-3559.


Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears every other Wednesday.

If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at kbg@olympus.net at least two weeks in advance. You can also write Griffiths at PDN, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362.

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