In light of recent confirmed cases of EHM, there is no time like the present to freshen up on horse health biosecurity measures. EHV-1, the virus that causes the highly contagious EHM, is common and can be present in horses for years before it manifests, if it ever does at all. Stressful situations such as strenuous exercise, weaning, or long-distance travel can spur an outbreak.
Here are a few steps you can take to help you protect your horse.
First, don't panic. Turn to a reliable source, such as your veterinarian, your local veterinary teaching hospital, or appropriate state/federal officials for accurate information that applies to your area.
▪ Work with your vet to set up a vaccination plan for all horses in your care.
▪ Be sure all horses entering your facility (or the one where your horse is boarded) are appropriately vaccinated and free of all communicable diseases; ideally, isolate all incoming horses for up to 30 days.
▪ Don't share water or feed buckets, grooming equipment, or any piece of gear that may come into contact with a horse's eyes, nose, or mouth.
▪ When cleaning or filling water containers, don't allow the hose nozzle to touch the container.
▪ Remove all manure/waste products to a location away from the barn.
▪ Limit horses' exposure to disease-spreading pests such as flies and mosquitoes.
On the Road
▪ Monitor temperatures prior to traveling, and don't ship a horse that's had a fever within five days of a haul.
▪ Keep a disinfectant-filled spray bottle handy to disinfect stalls and stable areas before moving your horse into a show grounds or other new facility. (Spray liberally.)
▪ Don't use common water buckets or feed areas at shows or event grounds.
▪ Don't borrow/share halters, twitches, lip chains, or other items that may touch a horse's eyes, nose, or mouth.
How to Disinfect
▪ Items that can be disinfected when necessary include nylon halters, bits, lip chains, grooming equipment, stalls, buckets, shovels, pitchforks, and even shoes and car/truck tires.
▪ Remove all excess dirt/debris from items to be disinfected, including stall floors and walls.
▪ Wash the item or area first with laundry detergent or dish soap.
▪ Immerse or thoroughly wet the item/area with an appropriate disinfectant. Products that are phenolic-based (Lysol) or quaternary ammonium-based (Roccal D) are most effective. (Although bleach is effective against most viruses and bacteria, it's inactivated by organic material, making it less-than-ideal in a barn situation.)
▪ Rinse the disinfectant off thoroughly with plain water.