North Dakota sees first case of EHM this season

July 1, 2019

BISMARCK – The North Dakota State Board of Animal Health and the North Dakota Department of Agriculture’s Animal Health Division are reminding horse owners to protect their horses from equine herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1). A horse has been confirmed positive for equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy (EHM), the neurologic manifestation of the virus, in McKenzie County. The horse is receiving veterinary care while isolated and recovering at home.

In the last few months, EHV-1 cases have been identified in 11 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces.

“With summer here, many horses will be moving to events around the region,” Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said. “Care should be taken when co-mingling horses to minimize the chances of contracting the disease.”

EHV-1 can be spread through the air, contaminated equipment, clothing and hands. Biosecurity measures that can reduce the risk of spreading the disease include avoiding shared food or water containers and preventing nose-to-nose contact.

Out-of-state horses and other equines entering North Dakota for any length of time must be accompanied by a certificate of veterinary inspection.

“Certificates of veterinary inspection reduce the risk of introduction of the disease and help us better monitor the movement of equines into North Dakota,” said State Veterinarian Dr. Susan Keller. “We use that information to report disease risks and findings to veterinarians and horse owners in North Dakota.”

EHV-1 can cause respiratory disease, abortion, neonatal death and sometimes the neurologic form of the disease, EHM. Vaccinations against EHV-1 have been shown to reduce viral shedding and the spread of disease, and may decrease the severity of the disease. While no vaccine can completely prevent EHM, vaccinating healthy animals and giving booster vaccinations before travel, competition or boarding is recommended. Horse owners are encouraged to discuss administration and timing of vaccines with their veterinarian.

Although highly infectious and contagious among horses, EHV-1 poses no threat to human health.