EHV-1 Virus Detected at HITS Coachella Desert Circuit

Ph. ©Bret St. Clair

UPDATED 2/20/2017
A horse that recently competed at the HITS Coachella Desert Circuit in Thermal, CA, USA has tested positive for the EHV-1 virus.

A 10-year old gelding stabled in Tent 21 on the horse show grounds was competed during Week III at HITS Coachella, January 21 – February 5. On February 7, upon its return to its home stable in San Diego County, the California Department of Food and Agriculture reported that the horse began exhibiting symptoms of the virus, and positively confirmed the presence of EHV-1 via clinical signs and laboratory tests. The CDFA released a statement on their website on February 13, 2017.

In a follow up statement posted February 16, 2017, the CDFA acknowledged additional cases of EHV-1 circulating among other horses that had been stabled in Tent 21. The CDFA only has regulatory authority over those horses exhibiting neurologic signs of the virus. While the CDFA reports the original infected horse is stated to be recovering the problem remains worrisome.

Since 2016, horse show venues in the Western United States have been struggling with outbreaks of EHV-1. In October 2016, EHV-1 was identified in a horse that had participated in a Saddlebred show at the South Point Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. That horse was among several stabled at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center when they tested positive for EHV-1. In November, a widespread outbreak of EHV-1 at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center cancelled shows and required several weeks of state ordered quarantine for several barns. See the Equine Disease Communications Center for regular updates regarding disease outbreaks nationwide.

Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1) is an infection in horses that can cause respiratory disease, abortion in mares, neonatal foal death and neurological disease. The neurological form of the disease is known as Equine Herpes Myeloencephalopathy (EHM) and may be caused by damage to blood vessels of the brain and spinal cord associated with EHV-1 infection.

According to sources that prefer to remain anonymous, several competition horses that were previously stabled in Tent 21 at HITS Coachella are now under home quarantine restrictions in San Diego County. A source close to the situation stated that the quarantined horses are being monitored closely by veterinarians, and are expected to recover.

HITS horse show management responded immediately and proactively by enforcing strict bio-security measures on the HITS Coachella showgrounds. Tent 21 has been disinfected and will not be used again during the remainder of the circuit. Horse show management remains in close contact with the health officials of the State of California, and after an inspection by state officials, HITS strongly believes there are no horses carrying the EHV-1 virus on the grounds. Show management expects full exhibitor participation next week, when the show returns from its off week. The CDFA encourages all HITS exhibitors to follow enhanced bio-security protocols.

Editor’s note: This article originally stated that two horses owned by Tasha Visokay tested positive for the non-neurologic strain of EHV-1 and that Visokay was an assistant trainer for Karen Healey Stables. Visokay does not own two horses that tested positive for the non-neurologic strain of EHV-1 and does not work for Karen Healey Stables.