Horse herpes virus outbreak in Florida a cause for concern

  • Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013 11:41 p.m.
    UPDATED: Friday, March 1, 2013 11:36 a.m.

 
 
A recent outbreak of the Equine Herpes Virus-1 subtype at the Post Time Farm show grounds in Ocala, Fla., is leading local organizers and horsemen to take a number of precautionary measures to reduce or preclude a similar outbreak in South Carolina.

The Progressive Show Jumping’s March Madness AA rated show is taking place this weekend, and the organizers are doing their part to keep the horses and exhibitors safe.

The organization has placed a number of restrictions on horses allowed to ship into the Highfields Event Center property, said Rick Cram, its owner/organizer. Horses who have been competing on the Florida winter circuit, HITS Ocala or the Winter Equestrian Festival will not be allowed to exhibit at Highfields until further notice.

Horses shipping in must have a current health certificate, which should have been issued within seven days prior to arriving at Highfields, said Cram.

The EHV-1 subtype is the non-neuropathic type of the disease, said Adam Eichelberger, director of animal health programs at the state veterinarian’s office. Progressive Show Jumping is following the protocol that was established in Florida and has been approved by the state veterinarian’s office.

Several horses in Florida have been diagnosed with the respiratory disease, but only one horse has shown neurological signs, said Eichelberger. There’s reason for concern, but horse owners and horsemen can do their part to make sure their horse doesn’t become infected, he said.

“Horsemen should have a plan for animals returning to the barn, or re-entering South Carolina,” said Eichleberger. “You have to be diligent about it. Horses should avoid contact with other infected animals, not graze in areas where other horses have been, not use a common water trough, and if sharing equipment, make sure that it’s cleaned between uses. If the horse begins to show neurological signs, it should be reported to the state veterinary office within 48 hours.”

Exhibitors are also doing their part to preclude the spread of infection. DFG Stables’ Daniel Geitner had been showing at HITS Ocala, but was careful in making sure all of his horses were healthy. Geitner had been checking his horses’ temperatures daily since the time of his arrival in Florida because of the high volume of equine athletes on the show grounds. His horses that had been in Florida are healthy and show no signs of infection.

“I called up a shipping company last Friday and said, ‘Can you get me home?’” Geitner said. “I wasn’t concerned as much about the horses getting sick. I just didn’t want to be quarantined at a horse show. If I was going to be quarantined, I wanted to do it at my own place. I have my own help and vets to help me look after the horses. We shipped out Friday and brought them home. We went ahead and quarantined our horses. Luckily, I’m in a good position. I have four barns, and I’m able to do so. I actually have three paddocks that are off by themselves. The biggest thing is to stay on top of it.”

Progressive Show Jumping officials continue to monitor the situation closely, and went through the stall list Thursday morning. Nearly 30 horses were precluded from competing this weekend as they had exhibited at HITS Ocala.

“We looked at the database and compared the horses showing in Ocala and the horses that were registered to compete here, and we have not allowed those animals to be on this property,” Cram said. “We’ve stationed our vet at the entrance to make sure the horses coming in have a seven-day current health certificate.”

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