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Equine herpes concerns prompt increased vigilance in Nova Scotia stables

By Evan Taylor Nov 15, 2023 | 2:24 PM

Rob Mitchell

Equine Herpes Myeloencephalopathy (EHM) cases have prompted increased vigilance among Nova Scotia stables this week. The virus, which has been identified in the province, is known to be dormant in horses across North America, with many exhibiting no severe symptoms.

EHM transmission occurs through horse-to-horse contact facilitated by human interaction, such as skin, clothing, and footwear. It’s important to note that there is no risk of transmission to humans.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency highlights that severe cases of EHM in horses can result in neurological problems, respiratory disease, neonatal death, and spontaneous abortion. Currently, there is no fully effective vaccine against the virus.

Veterinarians in the province have identified four presumptive cases of EHM, with diagnostic tests revealing alarming signs of neurological failure. Dr. Trevor Lawson emphasized the recent upswing in cases, noting, “We see it more often in other provinces, and less frequently in Nova Scotia. So that’s why it has raised some alarm bells.”

Following lab testing, one case has been officially confirmed, with three others presumed positive. The situation underscores the importance of heightened awareness and preventive measures within the Nova Scotia equine community.

In provinces with a substantial horse population, such as Ontario, cases of EHM or its infectious agent Equine Herpesvirus (EHV) are more prevalent. Dr. Lawson explained that Ontario regularly reports instances of the virus due to the high level of horse-to-horse contact in the region.

Unlike some other provinces, Nova Scotia lacks an official reporting mechanism for such equine health issues.