On our way up to Lynden with our second load of ponies, TrainerK’s phone rang. It was our vet calling with some grim news: a horse back at our home facility had just been diagnosed with a confirmed case of equine influenza, a highly communicable (although not typically deadly) respiratory disease.
Equine influenza (EIV) typically presents with a fever, nasal discharge, and a harsh, dry cough. Symptoms usually last less than three days in uncomplicated cases, but the virus can damage the respiratory system. Horses that catch EIV typically need one week of rest for every day that they have a fever to repair that damage—so it can easily put a horse out of work for three weeks or more. It also makes horses more susceptible to bacterial infections like bronchitis and pneumonia. In short: it’s a huge inconvenience.
Our barn’s Patient 0 brought the virus home from a gaming event he attended two weeks ago. The event’s management failed to notify participants that other horses that attended had tested positive for EIV. By the time we knew we needed to quarantine, it was too late.
The SEC is a huge facility. We have four barns, two indoor arenas, and 50+ horses. Patient 0 is stabled in a separate barn and typically uses the other arena. Since we’d already transported half of our horses to Lynden and none of them were symptomatic, the vet gave us the go ahead to compete. We notified show management, who instructed us to keep our horses stabled separately from the other competitors, and went about our weekend. All of the horses seemed right as rain and performed well.
But as the weekend wore on, the paranoia set in. When we got back home we started taking temps and confining the horses to their stalls. The vet came out to draw blood, swab noses, and dole out meds.
By Monday evening, the SEC was officially placed under quarantine.
So far Raglan has shown no signs of being sick. With any luck he stays healthy, especially since he was just vaccinated against influenza in September! The horse he was stabled next to over the weekend tested positive for EIV, though, and three other horses in our program have shown minor symptoms (but had too low of a virus load to test positive). Another horse across the aisle has pneumonia, too—very sucky.
Unfortunately, other barns have also reported cases of EIV. The situation is crummy all around—but it could be a lot worse if the disease in question was something like strangles or EHV-1. With any luck the EIV outbreak will run its course and we’ll all come out happy and healthy in the end.