Equine Herpes Virus Detected in One Horse in Ocala, Florida Shows Impose BioHazard Measures

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Secure stabling isolated from other competition horses at Global Dressage Festival. © 2021 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Mar. 3, 2021

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

The Equine Herpes Virus that has forced closure of horse events in 10 Continental European countries has spread to the United States with a single horse at a farm in Ocala, Florida found to be infected leading to organizers of the Florida shows to impose biosecurity measures and clamp down on horses being shipped in. As of midday Wednesday no cases of the virus known as EHV-1 were reported at any horse shows in Florida.

Two horses from Ocala already at Wellington’s Global Dressage Festival for this week’s World Cup event were examined by a veterinarian, showed no symptoms but were isolated in separate quarantine stalls out of what the management said was “an abundance of caution.” Two other horses on the four-hour drive from Ocala were told they would not be admitted to the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington.

The World Equestrian Center in Ocala where about 2,000 horses are stabled for the winter circuit stopped horses from being shipped in to the show, creating their own “bubble” that would enable competitions to go on. Entries from other events in Florida including the Winter Equestrian and Global Dressage Festivals and the Ridge in Wellington as well as HITS in Ocala and Venice, Florida were not being accepted.

The U.S. Equestrian Federation confirmed the infected horse in Ocala but said: “The horse was not shipped from Europe and was not on showgrounds at the onset of symptoms.

“USEF is working closely with the Florida Department of Agriculture and state authorities who are completing contact tracing and identifying the potential source of the virus exposure. The affected horse is in isolation at a vet clinic and horses who may have potentially been exposed have been quarantined.”

Organizers of the major Wellington and Ocala shows were quick to implement biosecurity measures, even before the single Ocala case was reported.

Meantime, the International Equestrian Federation provided an update on the outbreak of the neurological form of EHV-1 that began in Valencia, Spain in early February but counter-measures were not imposed until many horses had left the show grounds to go to several other European countries and a major jumping event in Doha, Qatar.

Six horses have died so far.

“The situation onsite in Valencia, although still extremely distressing for athletes and owners, has improved,” the FEI reported.

“A total of 83 on-venue horses are showing clinical signs and are being treated, but none of these horses are recumbent and require slings for support. Fifteen horses are currently being treated in external clinics–13 in Valencia and two in Barcelona.

“There have been no more equine fatalities at the venue in Valencia since last weekend, but sadly one horse has died at a veterinary hospital in Barcelona and one has died in Germany. Both of these horses had been in Valencia. There are no reports of any further related deaths, but tragically this brings the total number of deaths in this outbreak to six.”

Improvements were also made in what had been widely criticized as poor communications.

Spanish government officials, veterinarians from the show, a rider representative and the FEI treatment leader agreed on treatment protocols and a new plan for separation of horses following requests from athletes and owners for their horses to be grouped together without infringing biosecurity protocols.

Katharina Offel, an German international rider and representing the International Jumping Riders Club, arranged replacement stabling from the Sunshine Tour elsewhere in Spain that had been cleaned and disinfected.

In Doha, where a Global Champions Tour was scheduled, a German horse at the Al Shaqab venue already in isolation after arriving from Valencia, tested positive for EHV-1 and was transferred to an isolation unit at a neighbouring veterinary clinic. A second German horse that has returned an inconclusive result and was continuing to be retested.

A total of four horses that had been competing in Valencia arrived in Doha on 20 February, having left the Spanish venue earlier in the month. Of the four, two Colombian horses had left Valencia on 7 February, and the two German horses had departed from Valencia on 12 February, eight days prior to the FEI being notified of the EHV-1 outbreak.

The FEI has identified all 752 horses that had been in Valencia since Feb. 1 and blocked them in the FEI Database, meaning that they cannot enter any FEI events until completing testing requirements.