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15 Cases of Deadly Horse Virus Confirmed; Infected Gelding Euthanized

Boarding facility in Riverside County has been quarantined.

The virus commonly referred to as "" has claimed its first victim of the year in Southern California.

Fifteen horses have now been confirmed as having the equine herpes virus (EHV-1) in Orange County, and one horse in Riverside County displayed signs of having the neurological form of the virus, (NEHV-1) and was euthanized Wednesday, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). 

The gelding was confirmed positive with NEHV-1 Thursday and the facility in Riverside County has been quarantined. According to the CDFA website, the horse showed signs of hind-end coordination loss and was dribbling urine and became recumbent prior to being euthanized.  

Dr. Marta Granstedt, a large-animal veterinarian who practices in Chatsworth, advised horse owners that horses are always at risk of exposure, not just when cases are reported to the CDFA.

“No vaccine has been shown to protect against the neurological form of the herpes virus," Granstedt said. "Although it is easy to panic when cases occur, please remember that the virus is always out there,” she said.

Michelle LeMaster, who put her horse down last May after arriving in Bakersfield, CA, from Ogden, UT, where the outbreak was first reported, noted that early detection of the virus can be critical to the horse’s prognosis.  

LeMaster told Chatsworth Patch, “EHV-1/EHM is such a highly contagious and deadly virus if not detected quickly. The earlier you treat it, the more likely your horse will survive; minutes are crucial. You can go to bed one night with a horse just a little off and wake up the next day and your horse is down. Know your horse.”

When asked whether horses in Chatsworth should be quarantined or remain home instead of being hauled to shows, Granstedt said, “Nothing is without risk. The drive to the show is probably more of a risk than herpes virus.

“The affected horses are less of a threat to your horse than the horse you stable by at the next horse show," she said. "You risk exposure each and every time your horse or a stablemate is around new horses.”

If you must haul to an event, Granstedt advised good biosecurity measures to avoid exposing horses to the virus, including the following:

“No sharing of anything other than conversation. No touching other horses. No hanging around the ingate. Keep feed, tack and equipment away from public areas. Stalls are a huge problem, clean as best you can before stabling your horse. You need to make the decision as to whether the event is worth the risk! Decide why you own your horse and what you are willing to do.”

LeMaster advised that horse owners take steps to keep their horse’s immune systems strong to aid in the prevention of the virus.

“Feed good-quality hay and give them supplements to support their immune system," she said. "Just like us, if we are run down and not eating properly, the likelihood of getting sick is greater than if we are supporting our bodies against disease.”

LeMaster was thankful to the CDFA for its role in informing horse owners about the virus through daily website updates.

“I honestly wish every state had EHV-1/EHM on their list of reportable diseases. A big thank-you goes out to the states that keep us informed, so that we can make an educated decision on if we want to travel.”

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