02/06/2014 4:56PM

First cases of neurological EHV-1 found in New Zealand


New Zealand reported its first confirmed case of the neurological form of equine herpesvirus, also known as EHV-1, Horsetalk New Zealand reports.

The virus was discovered at a stud farm in the Waikato region on the country’s northern island. New Zealand’s Ministry of Primary Industries announced on Wednesday that seven horses on the farm had been euthanized due to the illness.

An additional six horses on the farm had been diagnosed with EHV-1, but are receiving treatment. No new cases have been reported since Feb. 2.

Andre van Halderen, spokesperson for the Ministry of Primary Industries, told Horsetalk that the owners of the farm had voluntary quarantined the five affected paddocks and that the virus had not been reported on any other properties.

The neurological form of EHV-1, known as myeloencephalopathy, has appeared in North America, Europe, and Australia, typically occurring in older horses. While different strains of EHV-1 are common in New Zealand, normally lying dormant until triggered by a stressful event and producing respiratory or reproductive issues, this was the first outbreak of the neurological variety.

There is currently no EHV-1 vaccine that accounts for the neurological strain of the virus.

Domestically, the highest-profile outbreak of EHV-1 in the racing industry occurred over the fall and winter of 2012-2013 at Hawthorne Race Course, resulting in several equine deaths and a lockdown on horses leaving the track. Additionally, several tracks refused to take horses shipping in from Hawthorne in the immediate wake of the outbreak, including Oaklawn Park, Turfway Park, Gulfstream Park, Fair Grounds and Tampa Bay Downs.

Quarantines due to EHV-1 have also been placed recently at Parx Racing, Penn National, and Fair Hill Training Center, and cases of the virus have been reported at Santa Anita Park.