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Highly Infectious Equine Virus Claims the Life of One New Jersey Horse

TRENTON, NJ – An equine herpes disease known as, myeloencephalopathy (EHM), resulted in an 18-year-old standardbred mare having to be put down on Dec. 18, 2019. 

The New Jersey Department of Agriculture held the mare on a secluded property after the horse developed the disease.

“The department took swift action to prevent the disease from spreading to other horses by enacting a quarantine, which stops the movement of horses in and out of the property and puts in place preventive measures to contain the virus,” New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher said. 

EHM is an often deadly neurologic form of Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1) infection. EHV-1 is a highly infectious disease that can cause spontaneous abortions in pregnant mares, respiratory problems especially in young horses, and even death. EHV-1 can last anywhere from 2-10 days. 

Some clinical signs can include fever, lack of appetite, enlarged lymph nodes, and/or nasal discharge. The clinical signs in horses infected with the neurological strain of EHV-1, typically include loss of bladder and tail function, loss of sensation to the skin in the hind end, mild incoordination, and hind end weakness/paralysis. 

The highly infectious virus does not last in the horses’ environment for an extended period of time and is neutralized by alcohol-based hand sanitizer, sunlight, and hand soap. The virus does not affect humans and other animals, except for llamas and alpacas.

Concerned owners are directed to talk to their veterinarian before taking any action, as the clinical signs of infection with the neurological form of EHV-1 (EHM) are common to many other diseases. The NJDA Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory provides testing for the neurologic form of EHV-1. 

For more information, call 609-406-6999 or visit https://jerseyvetlab.nj.gov/

Author: Asma Ali

Katie Moriarty

A Jersey Girl through and through, Katie Moriarty’s interest in broadcasting began while attending Centenary University. Hailing from a showbiz family, she met a prominent TV news anchor, while backstage at BB King’s Blues Club in New York City. She had the privilege of two college internships at Fox News Channel, and upon graduation was hired as a Production Assistant in the FNC newsroom.

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