The New Jersey Department of Agriculture said Friday it has quarantined a Morris County property after two horses developed the highly infectious equine herpes myeloencephalopathy, marking the state’s first reported cases this year of the fast-spreading virus.
The horses — 17-year-old and 20-year-old Quarter Horse geldings — showed clinical signs of the illness April 18, according to state officials. The horses received medical treatment and were reported to be improving.
“The Department took swift action in an effort to prevent the disease from spreading to other horses by enacting a quarantine, which stops movement of horses in and out of the properties and puts in place preventive measures to contain the virus,” New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher said in a statement.
The agriculture department did not disclose the specific location of the infected horses. A department spokesman did not immediately return a message Friday.
“Other horses on the premises are under quarantine as temperatures are also being taken twice daily on all quarantined horses to monitor for sickness,” the department’s statement said. “The NJDA is tracing and notifying the appropriate parties regarding recent horse movement.”
The Equine Herpes Virus, called EHV-1, spreads quickly between horses and can cause respiratory problems, more in younger horses as well as spontaneous abortions in pregnant mares and the neurologic form of the virus can kill horses, according to officials. Signs of the virus include respiratory disease, fever, nasal discharge, depression, cough, lack of appetite, and/or enlarged lymph nodes.
Horses infected with the neurologic strain of the virus often show mild incoordination, hind end weakness/paralysis, loss of bladder and tail function and loss of sensation to the skin in the hind end, according to the agriculture department.
The virus easily spreads through “direct contact” with infected materials, according to the state agency. It does not stay in the environment for an extended period and can be killed with hand soap, alcohol-based hand sanitizers and sunlight.
Officials said the virus does not infect humans and other domestic animals except for llamas and alpacas.
“Concerned owners should consult with their veterinarian prior to taking any action as the clinical signs of infection with the neurological form of EHV-1 (EHM) are common to many other diseases,” the agriculture department said. “EHM is a reportable disease in New Jersey. If an owner has a horse exhibiting neurologic signs or suspects Equine Herpes, they are directed to call their veterinarian immediately.”
More information about testing for the virus is available at www.jerseyvetlab.nj.gov.
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Noah Cohen may be reached at [email protected].