Union County News

Quarantine Lifted at Watchung Stable

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Watchung Stables in Union County, N.J. has been released from quarantine after two horses tested positive for the equine herpes virus. Credits: AAEP
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MOUNTAINSIDE, NJ — Watchung Stable can resume normal operations after two horses were sickened by the equine herpes virus and have since recovered.

The quarantine was initiated on March 16 after a horse developed the highly infectious equine herpes myeloencephalopathy (EHM). A few days later a second horse developed the respiratory form of the disease, according to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture. 

The stable was released from quarantine on April 9, after the EHM positive horse and the EHV-1 (respiratory form) positive horse each recovered and no new illnesses were found on the farm during a 21-day quarantine period. The stable is now free to resume normal operations, according to the NJDA.

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Although the NJDA did not identify the stable, the Watchung Stable page of the Union County website said the stable would be closed for three weeks.

Located in the Watchung Reservation, Union County’s Watchung Stable has been owned and operated by the county since 1933. Its goal is to provide the opportunity to learn how to ride, enhance equestrian skills or just enjoy the natural beauty of the 26 miles of bridle paths that weave through the Reservation, a 2,000-acre forest preserve.

The EHV-1 organism spreads quickly from horse to horse and can cause respiratory problems, especially in young horses, spontaneous abortions in pregnant mares, and the neurologic form of the virus can result in death. The incubation period of EHV-1 is typically 2-10 days. Clinical signs include respiratory disease, fever, nasal discharge, depression, cough, lack of appetite, and/or enlarged lymph nodes. In horses infected with the neurologic strain of EHV-1, clinical signs typically include mild incoordination, hind end weakness/paralysis, loss of bladder and tail function, and loss of sensation to the skin in the hind end.

The virus spreads readily through direct contact with infected materials. While highly infectious, the virus does not persist in the environment for an extended period of time and is neutralized by hand soap, alcohol-based hand sanitizers and sunlight. The virus does not affect humans and other domestic animals, with the exception of llamas and alpacas.

Concerned owners should consult with their veterinarian prior to taking any action as the clinical signs of infection with the neurological form of EHV-1 (EHM) are common to many other diseases. EHM is a reportable disease in New Jersey. If an owner has a horse exhibiting neurologic signs or suspects Equine Herpes, they are directed to call their veterinarian immediately.

The NJDA Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory provides testing for the neurologic form of EHV-1. For more information, visit www.nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/ah/prog/lab.html or call 609-406-6999.

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