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Vet Gazette

Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine eNewsletter

Equine Herpesvirus-1

June 6th, 2011

There has been a surge of diagnostic activity at the Oregon State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (OSU VDL) in the wake of the recent outbreak of Equine Herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1) infection and Equine Herpes Virus Myeloencephalopathy (EHM) in horses in the western United States.  Samples from several areas of Oregon have been submitted to the OSU VDL for the real-time PCR diagnostic test for this virus. EHV-1 can cause a variety of clinical problems in horses, including profound, life-threatening neurologic disease.

EHV-1 infection and EHM were identified in horses that attended a major horse event in Utah in late April and early May. Horses that may have been exposed to the virus at the event then returned to their home farm or equine facility, taking with them the potential to expose additional horses to the virus. Some of those horses returned home to Oregon.

Since this outbreak was identified, there has been a wide-ranging response throughout the western U.S. by state veterinarians, USDA, colleges of veterinary medicine, and local veterinary medical associations aimed at not only controlling the spread of the infection but also educating the public. Movement restrictions, quarantine, and health monitoring are being employed to limit exposure of additional animals and to identify and localize those that are infected.

This response includes testing suspect clinical cases for EHV-1, including the neurotropic variant of this virus. Nasal swabs and blood samples from suspect clinical cases are being submitted to the OSU VDL, one of the laboratories in the U.S. that can perform the real-time PCR used to diagnose this infection. Confirmation of EHV-1 infection or EHM in a suspect animal within 24 hours of sample submission allows the attending veterinarian to make informed decisions that will not only help in treatment and recovery, but also help minimize the spread of the infection to other horses. The OSU VDL’s investment in state-of-the-art molecular diagnostics assures our ability to provide highly specific and highly sensitive tests in the most timely manner, and in so doing, promote a rapid response to animal health emergencies such as this.

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