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Contagious Equine Virus Raising Concerns in Minnesota

Updated: 03/21/2014 11:20 AM
Created: 03/21/2014 9:59 AM KSTP.com
By: Nick Tabbert

A highly contagious horse virus has surfaced in Minnesota and other parts of the Midwest, cancelling equestrian events and increasing veterinary concerns.

Two horses have tested positive for equine herpesvirus-1 infection, or EHV-1, in Chisago County, according to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. Other horses are awaiting test results to see if they are infected.

The Star Tribune reports at least three horses in Minnesota have been euthanized because of the virus.

EHV-1 is a highly contagious virus that causes respiratory and neurologic disease in horses. Symptoms to look for include fever, coughing, severe weakness and incoordination, and urine dribbling or the inability to urinate.

The virus spreads when horses are in close contact with one another, but can spread indirectly through contact with physical objects contaminated with the virus, such as tack, grooming equipment, feed and water buckets, and people's hands or clothing.

The virus does not affect humans or other farm animals.

The University of Minnesota College of Animal Health and Food Safety recommends isolating any horse that may be infected and providing anti-inflammatory drugs and antiviral medications for treatment.

Millhouse Veterinary Service in Stillwater released at statement Wednesday, saying the outbreak may be related to barrel racing.

"There seems to be an EHV-1 outbreak developing in the twin cities area with barrel horses being the focus at the moment. There have been a few that have tested positive and a few with tests pending but showing neurologic symptoms. At this time we recommend no horse travel, especially to barrel racing events, to limit exposure until we have more information. We will keep you posted as we get more information."

On Thursday, SC Productions LLC in Rochester proactively decided to cancel its March 29-30 barrel racing event.

"Due to the current situation in the local horse community, regarding the EHV-1 Virus, SC Productions is going to be Pro Active by canceling our barrel racing event that is scheduled for next weekend March 29th & 30th. In order to stop the spread of the EHV-1 Virus is to stop the movement of horses. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this matter we highly recommend talking to your veterinary directly to get the FACTS!"

The Oasis Equestrian Center in Lindstrom, Minn. also canceled its barrel race Thursday night.

"After consulting a veterinarian about the issues surrounding the recent virus outbreak affecting MN horses we have decided to CANCEL tomorrow nights barrel race. There has been NO signs or symptoms at Oasis Equestrian Center and we are aiming towards being cautious just in case... Hopefully we will be ready to run next week and we all have more information! Please feel free to contact us with any questions!"

Show organizers have canceled events scheduled for this weekend in Merrill, Wis., and Tomah, Wis. They are urging participants not to travel to shows for the next three to four weeks to prevent further spread of the virus.


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