It has been more than 21 days since the last horse left the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center (EMC) in Leesburg, VA, prior to a report of neurological equine herpes virus-1 (EHV-1) on the premises. On Tuesday, March 13, State Veterinarian Dr. Richard Wilkes announced that, except for four quarantined premises, the state’s horse community may resume normal activities.

Immediately upon the report of EHV-1, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) quarantined 10 Virginia premises, including the EMC. State animal health officials began a rigorous surveillance program of the horses that had contact with the Center, asking owners on quarantined farms to monitor temperatures twice daily and immediately report horses with elevated temperatures or any neurological signs. VDACS veterinarians tested horses showing any signs of possible EHV.

Dr. Wilkes cancelled public sales and auctions the first weekend in March and recommended that event planners consider carefully whether or not they would go ahead with scheduled events. Many cancelled shows. trail rides, or fox hunts voluntarily in an effort to contain the spread of the virus.

“Virginia’s horse community really stepped up to the plate and did the responsible thing,” said Dr. Wilkes, “and their actions helped us contain the virus to the premises where horses had contact with the EMC. I applaud them for their wisdom and sense of responsibility. It is difficult to assess the impact of EHV-1 on Virginia, but this much is certain—it could have been far worse if the disease had spread to other farms and other parts of the state.”

While horse activities may begin returning to normal, Dr. Wilkes cautions everyone that there is still a low risk of spreading the virus. Now as much as ever, horse owners need to practice strict biosecurity. Visit www.vdacs.virginia.gov/animals/ehv.shtml for detailed information from the VDACS website.

VDACS offers these equine biosecurity practices to limit the spread of EHV-1 and other infectious diseases:

-Wash your hands with soap and water or use a dry sanitizer after handling each horse;
-Avoid nose-to-nose contact with horses who may have been exposed;
-When entering or exiting a stable or barn, wash hands and disinfect outer footwear using footbaths;
-Clean and disinfect trailers after use;
-Minimize the use of shared equipment such as water buckets, lead ropes, grooming tools; label these items as belonging to each individual horse;
-Any equipment and tools that are shared, such as pitchforks, shovels, twitches, etc. should be disinfected daily and between horses;
-Carefully fill water buckets and feed troughs so that neither the water hose nor the feed scoop touches the bucket or trough;
-Do not share multi-dose oral medications between horses; and
-If possible, keep horses which were off the farm and possibly exposed to an infected horse isolated from other horses for at least two weeks on their return.