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EHM Outbreak
 By Winniefield Park   •   19th May 2018   •   539 views   •   0 comments


In the last month outbreaks of EHM have been reported in Michigan, California and North Dakota. One horse was diagnosed and euthanized on the same day. Other horses were placed in quarantine. While this is far from being an epidemic, it’s important to understand these types of diseases because so many have similar symptoms. A fast diagnoses of what a horse is suffering from is crucial to treating it properly.

EHM, or Equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy may also be called EHV or Equine Herpesvirus, or rather the neurological version of that disease. There are actually nine types of EHV: EHV1, EHV3 and EHV4 are the most common. Of these, EHV1 is most likely develop into EHM, due to a mutation in the virus.

Causes and Symptoms
EHVs are spread directly from horse to horse. Or it can be spread on objects like stall walls, buckets and tack And it can spread when someone touches and infected horse and doesn’t clean their hands before touching the next one. By the time a horse is fully mature, it will have been exposed to the EHV1 virus and have been infected by it. For the most part, foals will have it from their mothers. The virus is then dormant, activated by stress—such as another illness, long trailer rides, or other situations that affect a horse’s health and immune system. EHV1 is also responsible for Equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy. The virus invades the neural paths of the horse causing damage that can affect coordination and eventually, other bodily functions.

Horses that have the virus will have a fever. This means their internal temperature is above the normal for that horse. 99.5 to 101.5 is normal. You can establish what is normal for your own horse by taking its temperature several times a day for a few days and then determining the average. But it’s safe to say that a temperature of 102F or higher is a concern. Fevers are the body’s way of trying to kill off the virus or bacteria causing an infection. Some horses with EHV will have cold-like symptoms. But horses with EHM will also have urine leaks, poor coordination, floppy tail, poor hind-end control and lethargy. They may lie down and be unable to get up again, or they may lean on trees or stall walls to hold themselves up.

Diagnosis and Treatment
The disease can’t be diagnosed by the visual clues alone. Both EHV and EHM have symptoms that are similar to other diseases. So a veterinarian will take a nasal swab and a blood sample. This helps distinguish it from other diseases that have similar symptoms.

Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for EHV and EHM, although there are antiviral and blood thinning drugs that may eventually prove useful. So treatment currently involves ensuring the horse is comfortable and hydrated. This might include intravenous fluids and anti inflammatories. Antibiotics don’t work on viruses, so they would only be given if the horse had a secondary infection like pneumonia.

Prevention
At the first sign of infection, be sure to avoid spreading the disease. This means not sharing feed tubs, pails, grooming tools and other gear. The horse should be kept away from others. Wash your hands and footwear after handling the horse. Ideally, there should only be one person looking after the sick horse who will not handle any other horses. When there is an outbreak, be extra vigilant when going to shows or other places your horse will be near other horses. It may be wise to keep your horse home until after the disease has subsided.
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