An equestrian farm in western Quebec has been struck by a highly contagious virus.

The virus is called EHV-1 and so far has proved to be extremely deadly having killed two horses at the farm and infected another 19 of the horses that are boarded there. Staff at the farm are working to keep the remaining horses away from the virus.

The virus is also called  the equine herpes virus. It cannot be spread to humans.

It is not unusual to have the virus turn up from time to time as it is found worldwide. The two most common kinds of the virus are EHV-1, which can cause abortion, respiratory disease and neurologic disease; and EHV-4, which usually causes respiratory disease only. However EHV-4 has been known to cause abortion and rarely neurological disease.

The staff at the farm now have to guard against the virus with much the same mindset they have to maintain when they are dealing with the pandemic.

In early February the virus first appeared in one horse. The healthy horse began to get increasingly ill. After a few hours of battling the virus the horse had to be euthanized. The next horse to catch the virus and to succumb to it was just two weeks later.

In media reports the owner of the horse said there was no warning or symptoms that would have alerted anyone.

The mortality rate of the horses being infected with the virus is between 30 and 50 per cent. The virus is normally spread through secretions from a horse’s nasal passage when they sneeze. To catch it the horse has to be in direct contact with the virus which is why farm staff have to make sure the horses are separated and all tool and equipment is kept clean.

Staying ahead of the virus and keeping healthy horses healthy is quite a task.

Just like the COVID-19 restrictions for humans, staff have they have to make sure they do not carry the virus from one horse to another on their clothing or hands.