Owners have been urged to be aware and a competition centre and livery yard praised for its actions following an equine herpes virus (EHV-1) outbreak.
Crofton Manor Equestrian Centre, Hampshire, announced via a post on its Facebook page yesterday (8 January) that positive cases of the virus had been diagnosed on the yard.
“The veterinary advice we have been given is that if you have attended Crofton Manor recently, to contact your own vet to seek advice regarding testing,” said the statement.
“We are on complete lockdown and all shows and hire bookings are cancelled until further notice. All entries and bookings made for January will be refunded over the next few days. Sorry for any inconvenience this may cause. We will update you with any further information when we have it.”
Vet Natalie McGoldrick, of South Coast Equine Vets, told H&H a number of vet practices are working at the yard and praised Crofton for its management of the situation.
“Crofton could have tried to keep quiet and carried on but they have been exceptional in their management of it. As soon as we had a positive diagnosis the yard was put into immediate lockdown,” she said. “They contacted every single person who had competed there or hired the facilities over the past 14 days to tell them what was going on before they put on social media which was very commendable. They are working with vets very closely and are very aware the yard will be locked down for some time.”
All the horses at Crofton are being blood-tested and swabbed this week.
“It started with a case at the beginning of the week and at the time we didn’t know what it was,” Ms McGoldrick said. “It wasn’t one of my cases, but it has now been confirmed that there is the neurological form of the virus, equine herpes myeloencephalopathy (EHM), present in several horses at least on the yard.
“EHM is reasonably rare. You can vaccinate against the respiratory and abortion form EHV-1, but there is no vaccination cover for the neurological form.”
Ms McGoldrick said horses with EHM can display neurogical signs such as uncoordination in their hind legs, supporting themselves against stable walls, and tilting their heads.
“Some may show a temperature but you don’t get any warning so they can seem fine that morning, maybe a bit lethargic, and by that afternoon be very ill. It’s quite rapid; the neurological form reaches its peak intensity 24 to 48 hours after onset,” she said.
“It can be airborne and can spread rapidly by direct and indirect contact within horses’ airspace, such as a horse snorting across another horse’s stable or someone touching an infected horse then touching another one. It can be spread on grooming brushes, mucking out utensils, rugs – biosecurity is absolutely key.”
Ms McGoldrick, who has been liaising with the Animal Health Trust on the management of the outbreak, said it is recommended that any horse who has attended Crofton Equestrian Centre in the past 14 days is isolated and owners contact their vet immediately, who will take a blood sample.
Practical advice on recognising the early signs of equine herpes virus and when it is best to vaccinate
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“People need to realise this is a potentially fatal virus and there is no treatment for it once the horse has caught it, so people need to be very vigilant. The advice is not to panic but if people have been to Crofton, or are worried, they should take their horse’s temperature – one of the first signs of EHV1 is a pyrexia, a temperature of above 38.5c.
Ms McGoldrick added that EHV, and the EHM form, is not a notifiable disease – but urged owners to be open if they receive a positive diagnosis.
“Making it public is really important so that people can avoid those areas and act accordingly and isolate their horses if they have been to yards that have positive cases.”
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