Should equine herpes virus be notifiable?

As some yards remain on lockdown following outbreaks of equine herpes virus (EHV-1), industry figures and horse owners are calling for the virus to be made notifiable.

But vets and the Government say this would be impractical.

Cases of EHV-1 in Glos, including one in which a dressage horse had to be euthanased, continue to cause problems.

Badminton’s stallion parade, due to be held on 5 May, has been cancelled as a precaution and numbers in classes at the British Dressage (BD) Winter Championships at Hartpury, (10-14 April), were down due to ongoing concerns — especially in the lower level classes and the para dressage sections.

In March, the Duke of Beaufort’s Hunt stables — used to house the four-star horses at Badminton — had to be emptied to allow thorough cleaning after EHV-1 was confirmed in a horse there.

Two months later, rider Sara Hubbard told H&H she is still under lockdown imposed by her
yard owner in west Oxfordshire, due to the outbreak in the Heythrop country.

Winnie Murphy of BD told H&H that things were “slowly getting back to normal”, but that it “would help” if the virus were notifiable.

Reader Sarah Cataldo says it should “definitely” be added to the notifiable diseases list, while Liz Collins added: “It is infectious and has serious possible consequences.”

Julie Magnus from Newmarket said the recent spate of cases had been a “wake-up call” for everyone.

But British Equine Veterinary Association president Keith Chandler said there was no “appetite or funds” available from the Government to do so.

A Defra spokesman confirmed it has “no plans” to change the status of EHV.

“It presents no danger to human health, has no impact on international trade and there is no international obligation to control it,” she said.

Caterina Termine from the Animal Health Trust, which is monitoring cases, told H&H that the last confirmed case was in Aberdeen just before Easter, but agreed it is impractical to make it notifable.

“We have horses in Wiltshire and Gloucestershire still undergoing tests, but overall it is looking better,” she said.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (2 May 2013)