Positive EHV-1 Horses in Kentucky

Editor’s note: The following was sent out at 1:22 p.m. Eastern on Saturday, January 7, from Rusty Ford, Equine Programs Manager, Kentucky State Veterinarian’s office.

The following summarizes current status of an active disease (EHV-1) investigation in Kentucky.

The purpose of this message is to make you aware of an equine herpesvirus incident that has developed in Northern Kentucky the past approximately 48 hours. First, do know there is no evidence connecting this event to the recent activity associated with Fair Grounds racetrack in Louisiana.

On January 4, a 2-year-old filly was referred from a Northern Kentucky equine facility (in Oldham County) to a Lexington area equine hospital for evaluation; the condition was initially thought to be associated with wobbler syndrome or injury.

When assessing the filly, the examining veterinarian noticed evidence of urine dripping, thus elevating concern of an infectious agent. Based on this finding, the filly was at that time isolated, diagnostic samples collected, and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture was made aware of the concern. That same evening, the laboratory reported that the filly was positive by PCR detecting EHV-1 DNA containing the ORF30 gene (the mutated neuropathogenic form).

At that time, the facility was placed on lockdown by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture personnel.

On January 5, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s investigator met with the facility management and the attending veterinarians. Fourteen horses in the ‘affected’ wing of the barn were sampled (nasal swab and whole blood), as were three horses in the second wing that had been preparing to ship interstate. These samples were received at Equine Diagnostic Solutions Lexington laboratory on Thursday night (January 5).

On the morning of January 6, we were advised by the facility of a horse in the second wing having spiked a fever >103 degrees F. Samples (nasal swabs and whole blood) were collected and hand carried to the laboratory. 

Last night (January 6) the laboratory reported that two of the 14 horses sampled from Side 1 were positive, and the febrile horse on Side 2 was also positive. Each of the three positive results identified the ORF30 gene.

Based on results of this testing, we are collecting samples from the remaining 18 horses on Side 2 (this accounts for all horses on the premises being sampled), and we expect results to be available sometime on Monday (January 9).

All equine having moved from the facility since mid-December have been traced, located and are being individually assessed and tested following our defined protocol.

There has been no movement to any Kentucky racing/training facility.

Two horses that had left the facility in late December and traveled to a track outside of Kentucky have been located, are now isolated, and samples have been collected and submitted for EHV-1 testing.

Condition of horses today (January 7): The index case is reported as improved and is preparing to be discharged from the hospital. When released from the hospital, it will be moved to a private facility and remain in isolation.

The positive horses on the index facility have been moved to a designated isolation area.

The population of horses continues to be monitored closely, temperatures are taken multiple times during the day, and any horse presenting evidence of illness suggestive of a viral infection (including fever) will be isolated and tested.

There have been no fevers or other abnormalities reported today.

Management at the facility is cooperating 100% and is committed to containing and effectively managing the disease. Updates will be provided when warranted.

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