Editor's note: On Dec. 6, the State Veterinarian’s Office of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services released the Equine Herpes Myeloencephalopathy (EHM) quarantine at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine's Teaching Hospital in Blacksburg. All exposed horses were closely monitored for fever and compatible clinical signs and kept under strict biosecurity protocol during the quarantine period. No horses developed clinical signs or fever compatible with EHM during the quarantine. 

The Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine (VMCVM) at Virginia Tech, in collaboration with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), has implemented a biosecurity isolation protocol in a dedicated section of its Large Animal Hospital in Blacksburg. The hospital remains open and able to admit patients needing veterinary care.

On Nov. 17, a neurologic horse was admitted to the VMCVM’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Blacksburg. The horse deteriorated and was euthanized on Nov. 18. A test for the Equine Herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1), the virus that causes Equine Herpes Myeloencephalopathy, was reported as positive on Nov. 20. In conjunction with the State Veterinarian’s Office of VDACS, all potentially exposed horses at the hospital were immediately isolated from the rest of the hospital population with strict biosecurity protocol and placed under quarantine. All quarantined horses are being monitored twice daily for fever and other clinical signs.

The farm where the index case resided before going to VMCVM has been placed under quarantine. Those horses are also being monitored for fever and clinical signs. The State Veterinarian’s Office has contacted the owners of all other horses that may have been secondarily exposed while at the teaching hospital.

VDACS has determined that there is no cause for alarm concerning the general horse population in Virginia. EHV-1 is a virus that is present in the environment and found in most horses all over the world. Horses typically are exposed to the virus at a young age with no serious side effects. A large percent of horses carry the virus with no clinical signs for the remainder of their lives. Rarely, exposed horses develop the neurologic form of the disease. Horse owners with concerns should contact their primary care veterinarian.

The Equine Disease Communications Center Biosecurity web pages equinediseasecc.org/biosecurity have more information on best practices for disease prevention in horses and VDACS has more information on EHV-1 at vdacs.virginia.gov/animals-equine-herpes-virus.shtml. Horse owners also may contact VDACS’ Office of Veterinary Services at 804-786-2483.

The Veterinary Teaching Hospital is a state-of-the-art hospital staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, providing primary, specialty, and emergency level patient care to small and large animal clients, as well as ambulatory service to horses and farm animals, within a 35-mile radius of Blacksburg, and referral service to practitioners in the region.