In the Face of the Outbreak, Can I Still Attend the Midwest Horse Fair?

On the eve of the 2014 Midwest Horse Fair, as a horse owner it has been hard not to hear the buzz and become concerned about the recent outbreak of Equine Herpes Virus Myeloencephalopathy (EHM).  

Current Status of the Outbreak (April 10, 2014)

Since our last informational blog post on the topic, the outbreak in Eastern Minnesota and Northwestern Wisconsin has continued as there have been two more cases in that region. One case is a confirmed positive (on April 8, 2014 via PCR testing) found in St. Croix County, Wisconsin. This horse is currently recovering. The other is a suspect case found in Isanti County, Minnesota (test results are still pending for this horse).

To date in Wisconsin, there have been three suspected cases but only two actual confirmed cases of EHM due to EHV-1 (one previous suspect case did not test positive). There continue to be no cases reported in Southern Wisconsin.

Should I Go to the Midwest Horse Fair?

We cannot tell you whether or not you should attend the Midwest Horse Fair. Since horse people from all over the Midwest are potentially attending, the chance for exposure of your horse to the virus is possible. Of course, the absolute safest thing to do would be to not attend, but that goes with any large equine event. And let’s be honest: this is a fabulous event. The folks involved with the Midwest Horse Fair have put in place strict health requirements for all horses entering the grounds and the veterinarians on the ground will be on high alert.

As with any large equine event, if your horse is attending, the chance of becoming infected is present but low in the grand scheme of things. If you are attending the event as a spectator only, the chances of your own horse becoming infected through secondary contact are even lower. However, since you can never really be too careful, Badger Veterinary Hospital has put together a few recommendations for attendees on practicing good biosecurity. These recommendations are useful for any large equine event.

Keep Clean - Practice Good Biosecurity

For spectators:

  1. Keep the petting of horses down to a minimum. If you are touching horses, wash hands or use hand sanitizer in between horses.
  2. Change clothes and shower before coming in contact with your own horses.
  3. Disinfect boots, tack, or other equipment prior to bringing them back to your own horses.

For exhibitors:

  1. Horses should comply with the health regulation guidelines for the event.
  2. Avoid nose to nose contact of horses.
  3. Use your own water and feed buckets.
  4. Do not share tack or other equipment including hoses, rakes, shovels, etc.
  5. If you have concerns about your horse while participating in the event, take a rectal temperature and notify a veterinarian if the temperature exceeds 102.0 F.

What Is the Best Way to Disinfect Equipment?

  1. Since disinfectants do not work as well in the face of organic material (manure, bedding, food, etc.), it is important to remove all this material prior to disinfecting.
  2. Wash the equipment with soap and water and allow adequate time for the equipment to dry.
  3. Apply a disinfectant and comply with the label recommendations regarding application, contact times, and safety information. Useful disinfectants include diluted bleach water (1:10 dilution), Phenolic disinfectants (1-Stroke, Syn-Phenol), or Accelerated hydrogen peroxide products (Virkon).

If you have any other questions regarding the specifics of the disease or disinfection, please see the following resources for excellent, reliable, and up to date information.

Additional Resources

State of Wisconsin Department of Trade and Consumer Protection recommendations  

Guide to Understanding the Neurologic Form of EHV Infection from the USDA

Biosecurity Toolkit for Equine Events from the California Department of Food & Agriculture       

If you still have questions or concerns, please feel free to give us a call at Badger Equine Veterinary Services! We would be happy to answer any questions you may have.