State vet addresses equine herpes threat

Still no known cases in Utah

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food released a follow-up statement to address growing worries over equine herpes in the state.

“As concerns increase in the various horse event centers, stables, clubs and horse communities in Utah concerning equine herpes virus 1 (EHV-1) and equine herpes myeloencephalopathy (EHM), Dr. Barry Pittman, Utah State Veterinarian at the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, has issued some follow-up words of caution,” wrote the department in an email.

“First and foremost, there have been no confirmed cases of EHV-1 or EHM in the State of Utah,” Pittman said. “However, considering the cases in surrounding states, the nature of the virus, and the co-mingling and stress levels of horses in event circuits, we are certainly susceptible to future cases.”

The Equine Disease Communication Center has reported the following March cases of EHV-1 and EHM cases:

There have been sporadic reports of these diseases in April, as well as in Nevada, Idaho, California, Wyoming, Texas and Canada.

Pittman said that increased biosecurity measures by organizers of Utah events, the postponement and cancellation of some events, and some horse owners electing to not participate in certain events has likely been a factor in no positive cases in Utah this year.

To reiterate the uniqueness of this virus, nearly all horses become infected with EHV-1 within their first two years. The initial exposure generally occurs in foals from contact with their dams (female parent). The virus can then become inactive in the horse’s body, setting up a life-long carrier state.

Horses of any age that are carriers of EHV-1 do not show any external signs of disease when the virus is in an inactive form. However, the virus can be reactivated during times of stress, such as strenuous exercise, long-distance transport, or at weaning.

Veterinarians across the state are encouraged to call the State Veterinarian Office if they suspect they may have a case of EHV-1 or EHM and/or have collected and submitted laboratory samples to test for these viruses.