For the second time this year, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture is taking precautions after horses at two farms were exposed to the highly infectious equine herpes myeloencephalopathy (EHM).
The farms, which haven’t been identified by name, are under quarantine and are located in Gloucester and Cape May County. Testing confirmed that a horse at the Gloucester County farm developed EHM caused by EHV-1. The horse was humanely euthanized on February 15.
“In these cases, the department immediately took the appropriate preventive measures to contain the virus and stop it from spreading,” said New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher. “This swift action helps to prevent many more horses from becoming sick.”
In January, a horse farm in Morris and another in Somerset County were quarantined when a horse tested positive for the infection. The sick horse has since recovered and the quarantines have been lifted. There does not appear to be a connection between the cases according to officials.
The EHV-1 virus spreads quickly from horse to horse, has a high morbidity and can cause a wide range of symptoms, from a complete lack of clinical signs to respiratory problems, especially in young horses.
The incubation period of EHV-1 is typically 2 to 10 days. The virus spreads readily through direct contact with infected materials. While highly infectious, the virus does not persist in the environment and is neutralized by hand soap, alcohol-based hand sanitizers and sunlight. The virus does not affect humans and other domestic animals, with the exception of llamas and alpacas.
Concerned owners should contact their veterinarian if they believe their horse is exhibiting signs of the virus.