Highly contagious disease has horse owners on high alert


Highly contagious disease has horse owners on high alert

St. Paul, Minn. – The Minnesota Board of Animal Health urges horse owners to do their part to stop the spread of a highly contagious horse disease after it has been confirmed in neighboring states. North and South Dakota recently confirmed cases of Equine Herpesvirus Myeloencephalopathy (EHM), a potentially fatal and reportable disease. The last case of EHM diagnosed in Minnesota was in 2015.

“Horses leaving their home farm to compete, breed or train can be exposed to a number of diseases including EHM,” said Equine Program Manager, Dr. Courtney Wheeler. “Owners and exhibitors entering Minnesota from other states are required to have a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection verifying their horse has been examined by a veterinarian and is free from signs of communicable and contagious diseases.”

The Board has an official control plan for EHM, and if a Minnesota horse is confirmed to be EHM positive or has been determined to be exposed to the disease, it must be quarantined. The Board then works with herd veterinarians and horse owners to carry out testing and observation protocols defined in the control plan before the quarantines can be released.

Horse owners attending events need to adhere to rigorous and routine biosecurity practices to prevent the further spread of EHM and other contagious diseases. Diseases can be carried from one place to another by other horses, people, insects, trailers, and equipment (including tack, blankets, feed and water buckets, brushes, sponges, hoses or veterinary supplies).

The Board works with several state and federal agencies in its mission to protect the health of Minnesota’s domestic animals. As part of this work, we encourage horse owners to follow these equine biosecurity tips when traveling with their horse.

  1. It is always best to use your own trailer and equipment. If you must borrow, clean and disinfect items thoroughly before exposing your horse and again before returning.
  2. Don’t let your horse touch other horses, especially nose to nose.
  3. Never put the end of a shared hose in your horse’s water bucket without disinfecting first. Don’t hand-graze your horse where other horses have recently grazed.
  4. If you touch other horses, wash your hands with soap and water, and dry them well. Use disinfectant wipes or hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. Don’t let strangers pet your horse.
  5. Clean and disinfect tack, boots, equipment, and grooming supplies before returning home. Make sure to clean off dirt and manure before disinfecting.
  6. Shower, blow your nose (germs can survive a long time in nasal secretions), and put on clean clothes and shoes upon your return.
  7. Keep returning horses separate from your other horses for up to 4 weeks. When doing feeding and chores, work with the returning horses last, wear boots and coveralls, and remove them before working with your other horses.
  8. Don’t forget to wash your hands.

EHM is a reportable disease in Minnesota and positive cases must be reported to the Board immediately. Click this link to view the Board’s Equine Herpesvirus Myeloencephalopathy Fact Sheet.

The mission of the Minnesota Board of Animal Health is to protect the health of the state’s domestic animals through education and cooperation with veterinarians, producers, owners and communities.