A horse remains quarantined at Oregon State University after it was diagnosed with a particularly damaging neurotropic form of a common virus.
The horse became severely ill Nov. 4 at its owner’s property in Coos Bay, Ore., and was taken to OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine for treatment. The virus is contagious, and the college has suspended elective procedures on other horses and on alpacas and llamas for two weeks to reduce the risk of them becoming ill as well. The virus is not dangerous to humans, but people can spread it to animals through hand or clothing contact with sick horses.
Erica McKenzie, professor of large animal internal medicine at OSU, said the horse has a good prognosis but remains in isolation at the Lois Bates Acheson Veterinary Teaching Hospital for now.
The illness is caused by a mutated form of Equine Herpes Virus-1, a common ailment somewhat like a cold is to humans. Most horses will contract EHV-1 and develop minor respiratory problems at some point, but in some animals the virus takes a turn and attacks the nervous system.
The illness usually shows up first as weakness in the hind quarters, with animals stumbling or developing an unusual gait. Other signs include weak tail tone, nasal discharge, fever and difficulty urinating. Geldings and stallions may be unable to retract their penis. Pregnant mares may abort. In rare cases, EHV-1 can cause blindness and central nervous system damage in alpacas and llamas.
Animals showing signs of the illness should immediately be isolated and owners should contact their vets, according to OSU.
McKenzie said a vaccine for EHV-1 can ease symptoms of the common form of the virus, but it does not prevent animals from developing the more serious neurotropic form of the virus.
More information regarding EHV-1 and biosecurity recommendations from the American Association of Equine Practitioners http://bit.ly/2jeDtmh