By Holly Vanderbraak
WILMINGTON, Del.--On March 9, an equine herpesvirus (EHV-1) outbreak became a scary reality for Be Well at Wellspring Farm, a 62-horse boarding and lesson stable in Wilmington, Del., when they received confirmation of three cases of EHV-1 from their veterinarian, Dr. Jamie Minnella of Unionville Equine Associates.
One of these, the often-fatal neurological manifestation of equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy (EHM), meant an increased risk to other horses in developing EHM.
Delaware State Veterinarian, Dr. Karen Lopez, swiftly placed Wellspring under a state-mandated quarantine and advised on maintaining a quarantine area, implementing biosecurity measures, and conducting twice daily temperature checks on all horses to monitor for fevers, oftentimes the only presenting symptom of EHV-1.
The farm was required to be 21 days symptom free prior to resuming business as normal.
As the virus continued to slowly spread, restrictions were tightened, permitting only essential personnel on the property with assigned work areas and allowing only individual turnout for the horses.
These changes left 12 core staff members responsible for meeting all the routine and additional care needs for the farm.
Spirits and energy were waning as new fevers were discovered over the subsequent days, sparking concerns that every horse had already been exposed and the farm would continue to see fevers potentially for weeks.
DR. ANGELA Pelzel-McCluskey, USDA-APHIS equine epidemiologist, was consulted on the case and suggested a treatment idea that has not yet made it to publication.
She recommended AniCell Biotech’s EquusCell, an equine origin amnion therapy administered subcutaneously in two doses four days apart.
Though it is marketed and used for tendon, ligament, and joint issues in horses, new research indicated it was effective in stopping the shedding of the virus in an average of 2.3 days and reducing deficits in neurologically effected horses.
It was stressed to the owners that efficacy was dependent on every single horse receiving the treatment requiring approximately 30 boarders to agree to treatment, which they did.
Following the administration of EquusCell, no new symptoms were detected, and Wellspring successfully reopened on April 13 to clients and on April 17 to the public.
A total of 14 horses and ponies experienced symptoms during the outbreak, with one pony being humanely euthanized due to the devastating effects of EHM.
Given Wellspring’s positive experience, they believe there is hope that utilizing this treatment for future outbreaks will reduce the number of horses effected or lost and mitigate the economic ramifications of an extended closure.
Wellspring is incredibly grateful to their staff for their hard work, the community for their many forms of support, Dr. Jamie Minnella for her time and effort, Unionville Equine Associates, Dr. Lopez, Dr. Pelzel-McCluskey, AniCell Biotech, and Boehringer Ingelheim.