Fatal EHV-1 case in Colorado; horse had been to rodeo events

The EHV-1 virus
The EHV-1 virus.

A Colorado horse euthanized after contracting the neurological form of Equine Herpes Virus-1 had a history of travelling to events within Colorado over the last few weeks, state officials report.

There is a potential link to other horses that have attended the National High School Rodeo and Colorado Junior Rodeo Association events which ran in Henderson on April 26-27, Eagle on May 2-4, and Rocky Ford on May 10-11.

Its stable mate, which is also showing signs of fever and may have the infection, had also travelled. the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s State Veterinarian’s Office said.

It was notifed by the Colorado State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory of the positive test for the virus in the horse, which was euthanized on Wednesday because of the severity of its neurological symptoms.

The second horse living with the EHV-1 positive horse has developed a fever and is considered a suspect case but is not displaying any neurologic signs at this time, the office said.

The second horse attended some of the same events within the rodeo/barrel racing circuit as the original horse.

Because of these developments and the recent history of other EHV-1 cases in other states, the office is recommending that equine event organizers and horse owners competing in the rodeo/barrel racing circuit exercise extreme caution with regards to the planning and holding of equine events.

“Disease prevention practices and good biosecurity should be implemented,” said state veterinarian Dr. Keith Roehr. “Owners should consider the risk for exposure to EHV-1 at upcoming events to be elevated and owners may want to consider keeping their horses at home to limit their individual risk.

“At this point, we have no knowledge of any other horses displaying signs consistent with EHV-1,” said Roehr.

“The most common way for EHV-1 to spread is by direct horse-to-horse contact but it can also spread through the air, contaminated equipment, clothing and hands; this certainly highlights the importance of following basic biosecurity practices.”

The Colorado State Veterinarian’s office is in the process of contacting all Colorado contestants that were involved in these events.

“We will continue to trace the potential contacts of this horse in order to protect Colorado’s equine population,” Roehr said.

The department said people who own horses that attended the events should monitor their horse’s temperature twice daily and report temperatures greater than 101.5 Fahrenheit to their veterinarian.

Where possible, horses should be isolated from others for 21 days.

It urged horse owners to limit horse-to-horse contact at equine events, and warned that EHV-1 can by spread on tack, grooming equipment, feed/water buckets, and people’s hands or clothing.

Do not share equipment among horses or, alternatively, clean properly between use.

Symptoms of EHV-1 include fever, decreased coordination, nasal discharge, urine dribbling, loss of tail tone, hind limb weakness, leaning against a wall or fence to maintain balance, lethargy, and the inability to rise.

While there is no cure, the symptoms of the disease may be treatable. EHV-1 is not transmissible to people.

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