What is equine herpesvirus EHV-1?

By now most equestrians have read or viewed the tragic events that have unfolded at the Spanish show jumping event, CES Valencia Spring Tour. Four horses have died after contracting equine herpesvirus EHV-1, the neurological strain of the virus.

At time of writing, it has been reported that a further 84 horses on site are showing symptoms. And with some horses leaving the showground after contracting the virus, there is a risk equine herpes EHV-1 becomes an equestrian pandemic. The outbreak has been described as the most serious in Europe for decades.

This blog is to help explain what equine herpesvirus EHV-1 is and why it is so serious. We are not medical experts. What we have shared is from our own research. There is a petition at the bottom of the blog to restrict the movement of horses in and out of the UK along with links to the most relevant articles.

What is equine herpesvirus EHV-1?

Equine herpesvirus EHV-1 is a viral disease associated with respiratory issues, abortion in pregnant mares, and paralysis due to neurological problems. There are nine strains in total; EHV-1 to EHV-5 affect domesticated horses and EHV-6 to EHV-9 causes infections in wild equids, like zebra.

In this blog we are going to focus on EHV-1, often described as the most serious.

What is EHV-1?

EHV-1 is a strain of equine herpesvirus that can lead to respiratory disease, neurological problems, and abortion in pregnant mares.

It has been confirmed by the FEI that the strain of equine herpesvirus in Valencia is the EHV-1 neurological strain.

How does EHV-1 neurological affect horses?

The virus damages blood vessels in the brain and spinal cord, which leads to inflammation of the blood vessels and the formation of clots that obstruct the flow of blood through the circulatory system or hemorrhages into the nervous tissue. Ultimately, this results in tissue that is dead or dying because of a lack of blood supply, or a restriction in blood supply to regions of the brain and spinal cord, with resultant damage or dysfunction to tissues.

Signs of EHV-1 neurological

  • A lack of energy
    • Wobbly hind limbs – poor coordination
      • Lower leg swelling
        • Being unable to lift the tail
          • Slight head tilt
            • Unable to pass urine or droppings

How is equine herpesvirus EHV-1 spread?

EHV-1 is contagious and can be spread by direct horse-to-horse contact, contaminated objects like tack and water buckets, but is most often spread by an infected horse coughing or sneezing and healthy horses breathing in the virus. Because of the contagiousness of equine herpes, the virus spreads most effectively in busy environments like auctions, show centres and large yards.

Why is it so serious?

Because the neurological form results in a high death rate, it is resistant to prevention by vaccination, and it affects horses of all breeds, ages and vaccination status.

What is the incubation period?

After exposure by any route, incubation period may be as short as 24 hours but is
typically, 4-6 days or longer.

Should we worry about EHV-1 spreading to the UK?

It has been reported that the risk of EHV-1 spreading from mainland Europe to the UK is relatively small. However, with confirmed outbreaks in France, Germany and Belgium, and the virus being a non-reportable type, the online equestrian community do not share the same opinion and are taking matters into their own hands with online petitions to promote action from DEFRA and wider government.

After viewing video footage of what is happening at Valencia, and as horse owners ourselves, we take the side of the equestrian community as a whole and encourage everyone to put in place precautions, remain vigilant, and sign any petitions to help stop EHV-1 spreading to the UK. This is a horrible disease.

Please show your support

If you would like to show your support, please sign this online petition to stop movement of horses in and out the UK, every signature is one step further towards action; Cessation of all equine movements until the EHV1 infection is contained.

Thank you.

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