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State veterinarian concerned about equine herpes outbreak

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food is investigating cases of Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1) within the state. 

There have been several cases of the disease in horses from surrounding states that returned from the National Cutting Horse Association's Western National Championships (NCHA) that was held at the Golden Spike Event Center in Ogden from April 29 to May 8.

This highly contagious disease which spreads rapidly can result in the death of the animal.

"If horses become infected with this disease that were not at the NCHA in Ogden, I will recommend at that time that all events involving horses, mules and burros be canceled in Utah," said Bruce L. King, state veterinarian.

As of 6 p.m. Tuesday preliminary laboratory results of nasal swab samples of suspect cases found in Utah have tested negative for this viral agent. "This is not an uncommon finding from nasal swab sampling and we continue testing of clinically ill animals," the veterinarian stated.

Horses will still be allowed to travel into and out of the state (please call the state of destination before travel).

There have been cases of the disease in Colorado and Washington which resulted in the quarantine of the veterinary teaching hospitals in Fort Collins, Colo., and Pullman, Wash.

This disease appears to be highly infectious and has resulted in numerous secondary cases.

Horses have been euthanized after showing severe neurological signs associated with the disease. EHV-1 is not transmissible to people; it can be a serious disease of horses that can cause respiratory, neurological disease and death.

The most common way for EHV-1 to spread is by direct horse-to-horse contact.  The virus can also spread through the air, contaminated equipment, clothing and hands. 

Symptoms 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. Horse owners should watch their horses carefully and call their veterinarian if any abnormal signs are observed.

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