EHV-1 outbreak: Protect your ranch horses

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A recent string of equine herpesvirus type-1 (EHV-1) has horse owners on edge trying to prevent the infection of the highly contagious virus in their herds.

According to the UC Davis Veterinary Medicine Center for Equine Health, the virus has two forms. One form causes neurological symptoms and respiratory infection (type-1), and the other aborts pregnancies in mares.

“Horses with neurological disease caused by EHV-1 infection can soon become uncoordinated and weak and have trouble standing. Difficulty urinating and defecating may also occur,” says UC Davis. “Often the rear limbs are more severely affected than the front. Signs of brain dysfunction may occur as well, including extreme lethargy and a coma-like state.”

Other symptoms include elevated fever of 120 ͦ Fahrenheit or greater, nasal discharge, cough and in some cases, reddish mucous membranes.

In the last month, numerous cases of the virus have been confirmed in states including Iowa, Colorado, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and most recently, Kansas.

The Kansas horse has since been euthanized. A Kansas Department of Agriculture press release says the horse was at a barrel racing even in Lincoln, Neb., April 10-13. Another horse from Wisconsin at the same event was also confirmed infected.

Whether a horse owner is going to a neighbor’s branding or a ranch rodeo, extra precaution should be taken when horses come into contact to other horses that may have been exposed to the virus.

EHV-1 can be spread from contaminated caregivers who have the virus on their hands, vehicles and other inanimate objects. It can also be contracted through airborne transmission and horse-to-horse contact.

For more information on EHV-1, click here.

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