The Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) is reporting that two horses in Bonneville County were euthanized after displaying neurological symptoms consistent with Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1). Laboratory testing conducted on one of the horses, prior to its death, confirmed the horse to be positive for the neurologic strain of EHV-1.

Beautiful horses
Public domain image/Dusan Bicanski

Equine Herpes Virus is highly contagious among horses. Llamas and alpacas are occasionally affected but the virus poses no health threat to humans. Symptoms frequently associated with EHV-1 infection in horses include a fever (>101.5 F), incoordination, hind-end weakness, lethargy, incontinence and diminished tail tone.

The virus is easily spread by airborne transmission, horse to horse contact and through contact with nasal secretions on equipment, tack, feed and other surfaces.

People can spread the virus to horses by means of contaminated hands, clothing, shoes and vehicles. Currently, there is no equine vaccine to protect against the neurological strain of the EHV-1 virus.

Deputy State Veterinarian, Dr. Scott Leibsle is recommending horse owners incorporate preventative biosecurity measures while transporting or boarding horses at facilities that have regular traffic on and off the grounds and especially where they are likely to come in contact with new or unfamiliar horses such as at a racetrack, rodeo or fairgrounds. Simple guidelines such as disinfecting a stall before using it, never sharing water buckets, feed buckets, tack or grooming equipment as well as avoiding unnecessary contact with other horses will go a long way in minimizing a horse’s risk of contracting the virus.

“I encourage owners to contact their veterinarian immediately if and when they observe any symptoms of illness in their horses,” said Dr. Leibsle. EHV-1 is also a Notifiable Disease to the State Veterinarian in Idaho.