NEW ORLEANS, LA (WAFB) - The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) has confirmed a case of equine herpes myeloencephalopathy (EHM) at the New Orleans Fairgrounds Racetrack.
A 2-year-old thoroughbred gelding reportedly developed a fever and neurological symptoms last week and was euthanized on December 26. A nasal swab and blood test, analyzed at the Louisiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab, confirmed the animal was positive for equine herpes virus-1 (EHV-1).
EHM is caused from a mutant strain of a fairly common respiratory virus. The virus is not transferable to humans, but is a severe, often deadly, neurological disease that can be spread through horse-to-horse contact. The virus can also be spread through the air, contaminated equipment, clothing, and hands.
"While EHV-1 respiratory disease is fairly common, EHM is less common. A private veterinarian determined the extent of the horse's illness and humanely euthanized it so the animal would not suffer with this highly contagious disease," said LDAF commissioner Mike Strain, DVM.
According to LDAF records, the disease was last detected at the Fairgrounds back in 2008.
Symptoms of the disease include fever, ocular or nasal discharge, limb swelling, abortion, and neurological signs such as unsteady gait, urine dribbling, hind limb weakness, and inability to rise. There is no cure for the disease, but symptoms can be treatable in some cases.
LDAF officials say no other horses at the Fairgrounds are showing symptoms of the disease. The barn where the infected horse was housed in currently under quarantine nonetheless. Forty-six horses are currently being monitored for signs of the disease.
As a result of the EHM case, bio-security measures have been increased, including restricting personnel within the quarantined barn. Hand, boot, and equipment sterilizing stations have also been set up. An epidemiological investigation is underway by state and federal animal health officials.
Horse owners are reminded to vigilant at events where horses are congregated together and should practice preventative measures such as vaccination, hand washing, and not sharing equipment.
For more information, visit the Equine Disease Communication Center here.