Virginia equine hospital reopens after costly quarantine

Virginia equine hospital reopens after costly quarantine

May 01, 2007

LEESBURG, VA. — Virginia Tech's Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center resumed full operations, including inpatient and emergency care, after a quarantine of nearly six weeks, imposed by the Virginia State Veterinarian's Office, was lifted April 2.

The quarantine was in response to the suspected infection of two horses with equine herpesvirus (EHV-1). Eighteen horses from Virginia and Maryland were held during the restriction, three of which tested positive for the infection. Two of those later tested negative, and one was euthanized for unrelated medical conditions. No horses died at the center from EHV-1.

Back in business: A quarantine at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, Va., ended April 2. (Photo: Virginia Tech)
"The center's facilities have been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected to ensure the safety and well-being of our patients," says Dr. Nat White, Jean Ellen Shehan Professor and director of the center.

The quarantine was the first the center experienced since it opened in 1984, and it proved costly, White adds.

"When it was imposed in February, we were fortunate that we didn't have to lay off any employees. The university supported us. But the closing probably will end up costing us $700,000, perhaps even $800,000, in lost revenue. It's a big hit," White says.

He bases the estimate on the loss of about $500,000 in regular income from patient care during March – "we received none of that" – plus the cost of caring for horses that normally would have been released, plus costs incurred with restarting operations.

"We are major emergency center for this region, so people were glad to see us back in business," White says.

Dr. Martin Furr, Adelaide C. Riggs chair in equine medicine, says the university teaching environment and its strict biosecurity guidelines were key in containing the infection. Besides its normal protocols, the center added mandatory use of hand disinfectants and restricted visitor access to help shorten the quarantine period.

The 80,000-square-foot, full-service teaching hospital handled 2,942 admissions last year. It employs 100 people, operates on a 24-7 basis year-round. About a third of its cases are emergencies.

The center is owned by Virginia Tech and is operated as one of three campuses that comprise the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.

Clients with questions can call the center's hotline at (866) 438-7235 or visit its Web site,