Equine herpes on studfarm
Vets move fast to contain disease
Veterinarians have moved to assure Waikato horse owners that an outbreak of equine herpes has minimal potential to spread.
Six broodmares were destroyed at an unnamed Waikato thoroughbred studfarm last week but officials said yesterday there was no cause for unnecessary alarm.
The Ministry for Primary Industries performed a postmortem on the dead animals and confirmed the case as New Zealand’s first of equine herpes virus type 1, but in a statement on its website said it was ‘‘confident that all affected horses are contained and the situation is under control’’.
Only one farm was affected in the outbreak and Equine Health Association chairman Ivan Bridge said the studfarm had voluntarily placed 12 mares in quarantine.
Mr Bridge said a Ministry for Primary Industries team investigated the deaths of the mares with a Massey University vet recognised as a world leader in neurological conditions.
‘‘Because of the unique position of where these horses were in relation to the rest of the horses on the farm, the MPI investigators were satisfied it represented very low risk to any other equine population,’’ Mr Bridge said.
He said the reason for the outbreak was not known but almost every horse in New Zealand would have had exposure to herpes.
‘‘Close to 100 per cent of horses in New Zealand will have had exposure to the herpes virus and are latent carriers of equine herpes one,’’ he said.
‘‘This is the first time it’s been identified in our outbreak of neurological disease but there’s certainly no cause for alarm or paranoia. We don’t need to be paranoid but we do need to be observant and if anyone notices a horse with what appears to be staggers, it’s probably worth further investigation.’’
Executive adviser to the association Trish Pearce was reported as saying the strain of herpes was likely to have arrived with an imported horse.
Mr Bridge said it was unclear whether yearlings from the studfarm affected were sold at the Karaka yearling sales but no yearlings would have come in contact with the group of older mares anyway.
The Ministry for Primary Industries website said equine herpes virus type 1 could not be transmitted to people or other animals and did not pose a risk to human health.
It advised horse owners to be vigilant for signs of disease, such as fever, decreased co-ordination, urine dribbling, lethargy, hind limb weakness, leaning against a wall or fence to maintain balance and the inability to rise, and to contact their veterinarian if they were concerned.
Waikato studmasters spoken to were satisfied the virus had been contained and the outbreak had been dealt with quickly and professionally.
Cambridge Stud boss Sir Patrick Hogan said he was made aware of the situation on Monday but he did not know the location of the stud concerned.
‘‘As I can see, the right organisations are involved and the right procedures are taking place,’’ he said.
‘‘ The appropriate authorities are dealing with it and all I’ve done is told my staff to be more vigilant and take precautions if they spot anything out of the ordinary.’’