Officials placed horses in the equine barns of the Cornell University Hospital for Animals under quarantine on March 20 after one horse was found to have the neurological form of Equine Herpesvirus Type 1.
A foal — a young horse — that was carrying EHV-1 was admitted to the hospital without hospital workers’ knowledge, according to Stephanie Specchio, director of communications at the College of Veterinary Medicine.
“When the foal came in, they believed that it was a bacterial infection,” Specchio said. “He presented all those symptoms.”
The foal died March 20. On March 25, EHV-1 cultures returned positive.
New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets’ animal health officials are also investigating the potential EHV-1 incidence. A second horse that was discharged from the hospital tested positive on March 30, according to the press release. 69 other horses could have potentially been exposed, the press release said.
“While a common virus in horses, we are taking this situation very seriously given the large number of horses that have potentially been exposed to a highly communicable and sometimes fatal disease,” New York State Veterinarian Dr. David Smith said in the statement.
EHV-1 is not uncommon in the horse population, according to the release. In most cases, the horses remain asymptomatic. However, the virus can cause a number of serious medical problems, including abortion, neurological disease and infection in newborn foals, the release said.
Although there is no evidence of further infection, the quarantine was intended as a cautious step, Specchio said. She added that one of the most significant changes associated with the quarantine is that the hospital has dramatically increased its safety measures.
“We restricted movement,” Specchio said. “Animals have not been able to come in or go out.”
The hospital is also augmenting its hygienic routines through “extra cleanings, extra disinfecting — beyond what is required,” Specchio said.
Additionally, hospital workers are regularly ensuring that all animals currently in the hospital are not carrying the virus, according to Specchio.
“We have been taking temperatures twice a day,” Specchio said. “There were four consecutive days that we did [polymerase chain reaction] tests. Those tests have all come back negative.”
Specchio insisted that the single appearance of the virus could not be considered an outbreak. She anticipates that the problem will soon be fully rectified.
“The quarantine is through April 11, at which time the status will be reevaluated,” Specchio said