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Equine Vet J. 2001 Mar;33(2):191-6.

Neurological disease associated with EHV-1-infection in a riding school: clinical and virological characteristics.

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Animal Health Service, Deventer, The Netherlands.


An outbreak of neurological disease caused by EHV-1 infection is described with emphasis on diagnosis and prognosis for recumbent horses. In April 1995, an outbreak of the neurological form of Equine herpesvirus type 1 (EHV-1) occurred in a well-managed riding school with 41 horses: 34 horses showed a temperature spike and 20 some degree of neurological signs, of which 10 were nursed intensively in the indoor arena of the riding school for 3 to 20 days, 8 having to be maintained in slings for 2-18 days, while 9 needed bladder catheterisation b.i.d. for 2-16 days. Within the first 3 days, one horse was subjected to euthanasia and another horse died. Postmortem examination revealed a mild vasculitis with perivascular mononuclear cuffing and axonal degeneration in the central nervous system. Clinical diagnosis was confirmed by serology and virology: 28 horses seroconverted in one or more tests during the outbreak, whereas 12 had already high CF and SN titres in the first sample, suggestive of recent infection. Virus was isolated from nasal swabs of 4 horses, and identified as EHV-1 with type-specific monoclonal antibodies. Restriction enzyme analysis revealed that the EHV-1 strains from this outbreak belonged to genome type EHV-1.IP. The electropherotypes were identical to those from another, epidemiologically unrelated, outbreak of neurological disease 2 months earlier. The timing of the temperature spikes and seroconversions indicated that the infection was probably introduced by a horse purchased 3 weeks before neurological signs occurred. At follow-up one year later, the 10 horses that showed mild neurological signs had recovered completely. Of the 8 horses that survived intensive care, 3 had returned to around their former performance level (2 of which had been in slings), while the other 5 had become pasture-sound. At follow-up 4 years later, all pasture-sound horses had been subjected to euthanasia because of persistent mild ataxia and incontinence. In conclusion, the prognosis for recumbent horses due to EHV-1 infection is grave. For virological diagnosis, extensive and strategic sampling of febrile in-contact horses is required, and the EHV-1-specific glycoprotein G (gG) ELISA is a valuable tool for specific serological diagnosis of EHV-1 infection causing neurological disease.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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