Update on Gulfstream Park EHM Outbreak

New biosecurity measures are being implemented at Gulfstream Park in Broward County, Florida, where at least 174 horses are exposed to EHM.
New biosecurity measures are being implemented at Gulfstream Park in Broward County, Florida, where at least 174 horses are exposed to EHM.
New biosecurity measures are being implemented at Gulfstream Park in Broward County, Florida, where at least 174 horses are exposed to EHM. | Wikimedia Commons

On January 22, one horse at the Gulfstream Park racetrack in Broward County, Florida, tested positive for EHM. The horse has since been euthanized due to progressing symptoms and poor quality of life.

The affected horse lived in Barn 21, where 174 horses have been exposed. The barn was immediately placed under official quarantine. A minimum 21-day countdown beginning on January 21 has been set. Horses’ temperatures are being taken and logged twice daily. Caretakers are wearing PPE and using footbaths. Gulfstream Park has instituted security around the barn, including a fenced perimeter, with limited access. Horses that previously left the facility within the previous 14 days have been identified. Their owners and trainers have been advised to isolate and conduct twice daily temperature checks.

The 2023 Pegasus World Cup will continue as scheduled. None of the exposed horses will participate in the event. The Kentucky Department of Agriculture has issued the following guidelines for horses moving from Gulfstream Park:

Horses moving from Gulfstream racetrack (or having recently been on the grounds) can be allowed entry if the horse meets the published requirements for entry in addition to the modifications listed below:

  1. Prior to a horse destined to a Kentucky track/training facility departing, the horse’s trainer or veterinarian is to contact the equine medical director, or his designated person, and provide required information on each horse that is seeking approval to move to the track.
  2. Approval of a designated horse to enter the Kentucky destination track by that track’s equine medical director is based on the condition that the horse is to be temperature monitored and recorded twice daily for seven (7) days post arrival with the temperature logs posted on the stall. Any elevated fever or other sign or suspicion of illness shall immediately be reported to the equine medical director.  
  3. The horse is to travel on a Health Certificate showing examination and issuance of the certificate performed on the day of departure or during the 12 hours immediately preceding the departure. The certificate shall have the EHV vaccination recorded on it as well as the date the equine medical director approved the move and the estimated time of departure and KY arrival.

These requirements are being adjusted in consultation with the track’s equine medical directors. They are subject to change without any advanced notice being provided should the disease event at Gulfstream Park change.

EDCC Health Watch is an Equine Network marketing program that utilizes information from the Equine Disease Communication Center (EDCC) to create and disseminate verified equine disease reports. The EDCC is an independent nonprofit organization that is supported by industry donations in order to provide open access to infectious disease information.

EHV 101

Herpesvirus is highly contagious among horses and can cause a variety of ailments in equids, including rhinopneumonitis (a respiratory disease usually found in young horses), abortion in broodmares, and EHM.

In many horses, the first or only sign of EHV-1 infection is fever, which can go undetected. In addition to fever, other common signs of EHV-1 infection in young horses include cough, decreased appetite, depression, and a nasal discharge. Pregnant mares typically show no signs of infection before they abort, and abortions usually occur late in gestation (around eight months) but can be earlier. Abortions can occur anywhere from two weeks to several months following infection with EHV-1.

Horses with EHM usually have a fever at the onset of the disease and might show signs of a respiratory infection. A few days later, neurologic signs such as ataxia (incoordination), weakness or paralysis of the fore- and hind limbs, urine retention and dribbling, loss of tail tone, and recumbency (inability to rise) develop.

Herpesvirus is easily spread by nose-to-nose or close contact with an infectious horse; sharing contaminated equipment including bits, buckets, and towels; or clothing, hands, or equipment of people who have recently had contact with an infectious horse. Routine biosecurity measures, including hygiene and basic cleaning and disinfection practices, should be in place at all times to help prevent disease spread.

Current EHV-1 vaccines might reduce viral shedding but are not protective against the neurologic form of the disease. Implementing routine biosecurity practices is the best way to minimize viral spread, and the best method of disease control is disease prevention.

Brought to you by Boehringer Ingelheim, The Art of the Horse

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