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Leesburg Equine Center Reopens

State orders end to month-long quarantine.

Friday morning, the doors of Virginia Tech's Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center, opened for business, following the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' official release of the quarantine that has kept the medical center closed since Feb. 20. The center was quarantined by the state after horses tested positive for the equine herpesvirus (EHV-1).

On March 30, the medical center resumed all outpatient services, with full operations, including inpatient services and emergency care, resuming Monday, April 2.

"The center's facilities have been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected to ensure the safety and well-being of our patients and we are ready to once again provide the highest quality of care and service to the equine community," Dr. Nathanial A. White II, the Jean Ellen Shehan professor and director of the equine center, said.

EVH-1 IS ONE of several strains of the equine herpesvirus, a highly contagious disease that can cause respiratory signs, prenatal infection, abortion, inflammation of the brain. This strain of herpesvirus is not transmissible to humans, but can be transferred between horses through nasal fluids and bodily secretions. Symptoms of the virus include fever, coughing, nasal discharge, loss of balance and recumbency, or lying down.

On Feb. 7, a horse that had been brought to the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center for an unrelated emergency developed a fever and symptoms of the nervous disease, White said. The horse was immediately isolated, the doctor said, and tested positive for EHV-1 Feb. 16.

The morning of Feb. 20, two more horses at the veterinary hospital began to show neurological symptoms, leading the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to order quarantine beginning that day.

EIGHTEEN HORSES were held at the hospital during the quarantine. Three horses at the center tested positive for EHV-1, two of which have since tested negative for the disease. The third horse was euthanized due to medical conditions unrelated to the herpes virus.

Dr. Martin Furr, one of the internists at the hospital, who is an expert in the equine herpesvirus, said that the teaching hospital atmosphere was an important part of dealing with the outbreak.

"Because our facility members conduct cutting-edge research into equine disease, we were prepared to handle this type of an outbreak," he said. "Our experience taught us that the immediate implementation of emergency management procedures is the best way to stop the spread of this type of contagion."

Since the outbreak, new criteria have been added to the medical center's biosecurity guidelines as a result of the infection. Included in the new guidelines is the mandatory use of hand disinfectants and restrictions on visitor access to hospital facilities.

"Biosecurity guidelines are essentially living documents that are always being re-evaluated and we decided to augment our existing protocols with these additional measures in order to further protect our patients."

— Erika Jacobson