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Live vaccines more effective against horse herpes virus

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Following the recent deadly outbreak of equine herpes virus at Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, a Cornell University virologist says his preliminary research indicates that vaccines containing weakened live viruses, called modified live vaccines (MLV), appear to be more effective in preventing horse herpes than other more widely used vaccines.

"It's important that people know that the MLV has been in use for decades, has proven to be reasonably safe, and in -- my opinion -- it should be the vaccine of choice, at least in non-pregnant animals," said Klaus Osterrieder, associate professor of virology in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell. The college is home to the Animal Health Diagnostic Center, the official regulatory diagnostic laboratory for equine diseases in New York state.

On May 18, two horses stabled at Churchill Downs showed symptoms of the neurological form of equine herpes and were euthanized, leading to concern at the May 22 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course near Baltimore. In anticipation of the June 11, $1 million Belmont Stakes, the third leg of the Triple Crown, in Belmont, N.Y., the New York Racing Association (NYRA) on May 18 issued travel restrictions for all horses that might have been exposed to equine herpes virus, with special attention paid to those stabled at Churchill Downs since May 1.

In some 90 percent of infected horses, equine herpes virus type 1 (EHV-1) leads to a mild upper respiratory infection with fever, nasal discharge and fatigue for a day or two. The virus can also cause pregnant mares to abort, and in its severest form it can lead to neurological disorders, loss of coordination and even death. The virus is spread mainly by intimate contact between horses. Once infected, a horse carries the virus for the rest of its life in a "latent" (dormant) state. The same symptoms from the initial infection can be reactivated by stress later in life.

Osterrieder will pre
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Contact: Blaine P. Friedlander Jr.
bpf2@cornell.edu
607-254-8093
Cornell University News Service
26-May-2005


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