Equine Herpes Outbreak in the West

A series of outbreaks of equine herpes, a dangerous, a easily transmitted disease affecting horses, has alarmed agricultural officials in several western states, including Colorado, Utah, Oregon, and Washington. The original outbreak of the virus is thought to have occurred at the National Cutting Horse Association’s Western National Championship, which was held in Ogden Utah. Since that festival, which was held from April 30-May 8, horses across the country, but particularly in the West, have been diagnosed with the virus.

EHV-1 is a difficult disease to contain. It has the ability to spread rapidly between animals and has a high mortality rate. The primary strain of the disease can cause spontaneous abortions in pregnant horses and can lead to pneumonia, paralysis, and death in young horses. The neurological strain of the disease can impact older horses as well. Symptoms can be difficult to diagnose, since early symptoms share similarities with a host of other diseases.

Voluntary quarantines and veterinary monitoring are the typical responses to the disease.  State officials across the country have not taken any official action, but are advising horse owners to be cautious and aware of the symptoms of equine herpes. Colorado, Washington, and Oregon Departments of Agriculture have not restricted movement across state lines, but all are considering it if the infections spread.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer