Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Uncertain times....

As many of you may have heard or may be experiencing in your area. In Alberta we are dealing with a case of "Neurologic Rhino" or EHV1 or Equine Herpes Virus. The "outbreak" started at a cutting show in Utah where several Alberta horses were present. They have no identified horses in Alberta & British Columbia that have tested positive for it and are under quarantine. I believe there is only ONE case in Alberta and TWO in BC.

Everyone is absolutely panic'ing about it and to be honest I'm a little fed up with all of the misinformation and half truths being spread around. A lot of people aren't really READING the information that's being put out, they're finding the worst case scenario tid bits and using to them to create mass hysteria.

After muddling through the information, here is what I know. EHV1 is normally a flu virus that presents itself as a runny nose/cough/fever. The vaccine prevents the respiratory version. However, in some horses the EHV1 is mutating and causing neurologic symptoms which *can* result in death. The vaccine doesn't protect against the neurologic strain.

A lot of people are peddling this virus as a guaranteed death sentance for horses if they get it, which is completely untrue. If you horse comes into contact with a horse that has EHV1, there is no guarantee that your horse will even get it in the first place. In the second place, if they do contract EHV1, there is no guarantee that it will mutate and cause neurologic symptoms. In the third place, if they *DO* get the neurologic symptoms, they can recover.

If your horse is not at a cutting or reining horse barn, you probably don't need to worry at all. I would say that if your horse is healthy and doesn't have a compromised immune system and has their regular vaccinations, you likely have even less to worry about.

Personally, I think the reason this disease is apparently so rampant & voracious is because a) It was at a national show with HUNDREDS of horses from across the continent and b) a lot of these horses are kept indoors 24/7/365, which IMHO is VERY unhealthy and can lead to a cough/COPD (ie compromised immune systems) from the ammonia build up in stuffy barns and are in heavy training so their bodies are stressed.

Some common sense will keep you safe. Stay at home if you are really worried. If you still want to show, have a look at the calendar before you go and see what other events the facility has held...anything with reiners or cutters, you may want to steer clear of for awhile. Take your own buckets, don't stable there if you don't have to and tie to your trailer vs. a common hitching rail. Don't hang out in between classes with other people/horses, take your's back to your trailer while you wait.

Thus far there are a LOT of barns here that are self quarantining for the next 3 weeks and a lot of shows are being cancelled or postponed. I say KUDOS to the barns/show officials for taking that precaution and having their priorities straight and trying to do their part to prevent the spread. Personally, I don't know what a 3 week quarantine will do, it doesn't seem like enough to really stop the "outbreak".

So I guess I may not get as much showing in as I had wanted to this summer, time will tell. I'm not too hurt about it because my pocket book will be happy! At the moment everyone is still unsure of the situation just yet, we will see what happens over the coming weeks. Perhaps Brigit will get kicked out for the summer at a friend's place to enjoy some grass again and I will spend more time in my garden. Either way, it will still be a good summer!


  1. Just one small point...while EHV-1 does cause upper respiratory symptoms, it is not a flu virus but a herpes virus. It is from the same family that causes rhino in cats.

    We had an outbreak of neuro EHV here in MD some years ago and there was absolute panic. A couple of privately owned horses had to be put down and the owners blamed the state health authorities for not imposing a blanket quarrantine, tho it is questionable what that would have accomplished.

    We don't know much more about the disease than we did back then, and it's not clear whether the disease is a different mutated strain of EHV-1 or if it's a strain that may mutate once in the host, similar to how corona causes FIP in cats. These sound similar but are vastly different processes. There's also the chance that neuro EHV is not a new phenomenon at all but is being diagnosed more accurately due to advanced testing such as PCR.

    And, no, the vaccine does not confer immunity against it...but it's the best we've got at the moment.

  2. I'm worried about going to Montreal in the summer as I always go to tack shops there (they sell used tack as well) and wanted to visit the carriage horse and police horse stables there to take pics but am worried about bringing the virus home with me to the UK and giving it to Hattie!!

  3. Is this what Australia had a few years ago? I can't remember the details but it just crippled the equestrian industry for months.

    I remember hearing of people who were at a large event when it broke out and they were all put into quarantine and couldn't leave. People were stuck at the event venue with their horses for weeks while it ran its course. It was pretty frightening at the time :(

  4. Thanks so much for the information. I have received no less than 5 e-mails about this.. each saying something different!

  5. There is a lot of good information out there but the rumor mill has gotten a bit carried away in places. Robin, thank you for the additional information, you are correct. I am not sure why EHV1, Rhino, Flu and Equine Herpes are all interchangeable, perhaps because it does cause "flu like" symptoms. Good for people to know they are all one and the same.

    Leila, I really wouldn't worry about bringing it home to the UK (Unless you're bringing a horse with you! lol). Just be sure to give everything a good wash after visiting and clean any tack you buy thoroughly. I don't think there are any concerns in Montreal at the moment.

    I'm not too sure Anita, I'll have to check into that further. It may be something similar. I'm sure that if they would have caught it at the show, they probably would have done the same thing.

    No problem Julie!

    An interesting tidbit, they released the autopsy report from the horse they thought was the original "carrier" and it turns out the horse was negative for EHV1, so they really don't know where it originated from.