Agriculture & Livestock: Preventative measures taken against EHV-1

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Diane Prather

A media release from the Colorado State Veterinarian’s Office, dated May 23, updated the status of EHV-1 (equine herpesvirus) in the state. As of noon May 23:

• Nine horses have been confirmed with EHV-1.

• Two horses, which tested positive for EHV-1, were euthanized after showing severe neurological signs associated with the disease.

• There are 22 suspect cases. (Suspect cases are those horses that are believed to have been exposed to EHV-1 but confirmatory tests are still pending.)

• Twelve quarantine and hold orders have been issued in eight Colorado counties: Bent, Boulder, Garfield, Gunnison, Larimer, Mesa, Morgan and Weld.

The Colorado Department of Agriculture continues to investigate the spread of EHV-1 in the state with the National Cutting Horse Association’s Western National Championships in Ogden, Utah, as “a point of interest for the infection.” The department reminds horse owners to consider this disease risk before transporting horses. EHV-1 can be transferred from nose-to-nose contact. In addition, the virus can also be spread by contaminated tack, equipment and people’s clothing. It can also be spread through aerosols (airborne) for a limited distance.

In considering the disease risk, some Colorado counties are taking preventative measures by making schedule/location changes in horse activities.

For example, Colorado State Fair organizers have voluntarily canceled three equine events following the spread of EHV-1:

• Zamora Roping, originally scheduled for May 20 to 22, has a reschedule date pending.

• Mounted Shooting Regional, originally scheduled for Friday to Monday, has been rescheduled for Oct. 7 to 10.

• Sagebrush Slide Cow Horse Show, originally scheduled for Wednesday to June 5, has been rescheduled for Aug. 10 to 14.

According to a media release from the Colorado Department of Agriculture, State Fair General Manager Chris Wiseman said, “We decided to reschedule these events to limit the number of horses traveling to and from the fairgrounds. Our horse shows are important to the fair and to Colorado as a whole, and we want to be proactive in protecting our horse community.”

Locally, Alisa Comstock, Moffat County 4-H agent, said that no decision has been made concerning the status of the Livestock Expo (with horse, livestock and dog entries) to be held June 13 to 16.

Comstock sad that she has contacted club leaders and asked them not to “intermingle horses (during 4-H meetings) at this point.”

“Members in 4-H horse clubs can meet and do activities without the horses being present,” she added.

After this week, the situation will be re-evaluated following visits with local veterinarians, Fairgrounds Director Bill Sixkiller, the Colorado State Veterinarian’s Office and Colorado State University, Comstock said.

In a press release to 4-H horse leaders, parents and members on May 17, Garfield/Rio Blanco County Extension Director Bill Ekstrom asked 4-H leaders to “review the risk potential for club activities with horses before holding an activity or ride.” He also suggested reviewing the symptoms of EHV-1 with 4-H members.

According to Ekstrom, “because riding facilities with a lot of traffic (movement of outside horses) would be considered a higher risk,” the Monday night ride is canceled until further notice. And because of scheduling (the June 4-H Conference) and the uncertainty of the EHV-1 disease, the Ranch Horse Riding event, originally to be held June 24 and 25, is postponed until a later date.

Cassidy Kurtz, Routt County 4-H Extension agent, was out of the office this past week so status of 4-H horse activities for that county aren’t available. However, Jill Delay, Routt County Fairgrounds manager/fair coordinator, issued a media release on May 17 notifying all concerned that the Routt County Fairgrounds, located in Hayden, has been closed to all horses.

According to this press release, the decision was made to voluntarily close the facilities temporarily for two weeks as a preventative measure against the EHV-1 outbreak. The decision was made after discussions among fairgrounds management, Routt County Extension Office staff and Mike Gotchey, veterinarian at the Steamboat Veterinary Hospital. The fairgrounds facility will be closed until Tuesday.

The press release also explains ,”Fairgrounds management emphasizes that there is no reason to believe any infected horses have been on the property and that the closing of the facility to horses is strictly for prevention and safety purposes.”

The status of EHV-1 is being updated daily. For more information, contact the Moffat County Extension Office at 824-9180, local veterinarians or the Colorado Department of Agriculture website at www.colorado.gov/ag.

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