OBJECTIVE: To investigate the seroprevalence of equine herpesvirus 1 in foals around weaning and after weaning on two large Thoroughbred farms using a type-specific enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay to determine exposure to infection.
DESIGN: A longitudinal population study in groups of Thoroughbred weanling foals.
STUDY POPULATION: Two hundred weanling Thoroughbred foals from a population of about 380 foals were enrolled on two adjacent stud farms in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales. Foals on both farms were weaned from February to May 1995 into randomly selected groups of 10 to 15 foals. Farms were selected because of their willingness to cooperate in the survey and because their detailed records of foals and their movements. They were representative of well-managed large Thoroughbred stud farms in New South Wales. Both studs had upper respiratory tract disease among weanling foals around weaning each year although the seroprevalence of viral respiratory disease on either farm was not known before the study.
PROCEDURE: Serum was collected from foals within each group at fortnightly intervals from 9th February until 1st June 1995, and at a single follow-up period in August 1995. Each sample was tested in triplicate using an antibody-detection ELISA which is type-specific for EHV-1 and EHV-4 antibodies.
RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: There was serological evidence of EHV-1 infection both before and after weaning. The prevalence of EHV-1 antibody in the sample population increased during the study and individual cases of EHV-1 infection were identified. The increase was caused both by the seroconversion of foals within the groups and by the recruitment into the study of foals with pre-existing EHV-1 antibody. Evidence of EHV-1 infection in Thoroughbred foals after weaning has not been reported previously in Australia and this has implications for vaccination regimens.