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Objective To examine the prevalence of equine herpesvirus 1 antibody in mares and foals on a large Hunter Valley Thoroughbred stud farm in New South Wales before and after the introduction of an inactivated whole virus vaccine.

Design Cross-sectional serological surveys performed in February 1995 and 2000 to determine the prevalence of EHV-1 antibody-positive mares and foals. A further cross-sectional survey was carried out in 2001 to complement the 2000 data.

Study population Two hundred and twenty-nine mares and their foals were sampled in 1995 and 236 mares and their foals were sampled in 2000. The study population comprised all of the mares with foals at foot on this property at each sample period. Fifty mares were sampled in both studies. A further 264 mares and their foals were sampled in 2001.

Procedure A blood sample was collected from each mare and foal at the beginning of February 1995, 2000 and 2001. Each sample was tested in triplicate using an antibody-detection ELISA that is type-specific for EHV-1 and EHV-4 antibodies.

Results The prevalence of EHV-1 antibody-positive mares was not statistically different in 2000 compared to 1995. However, the prevalence of antibody-positive foals was significantly lower in 2000 than in 1995. In 2001, the prevalence of antibody-positive mares was higher than in 2000, but not different from that in 1995. The prevalence of antibody-positive foals in 2001 was not significantly different from the prevalence observed in 1995 or that observed in 2000. However, when the three studies were compared there was a significant variation in the prevalence of EHV-1 positive foals due to the variation between the 1995 and the 2000 data.

Conclusions Mares are the source of virus from which foals are infected early in life and following analysis of the 2001 data, the difference in the prevalence of EHV-1 antibody-positive foals between 1995 and 2000 was likely to be a reflection of seasonal, nutritional and management factors, rather than the result of vaccination.