An outbreak of equine herpes (Rhino EHV-1) spreading rampantly throughout the Southwest has already claimed the life of one horse in Mayer, Ariz. and veterinarians say there is no vaccine for the lethal disease.
There are several reports of death due to EHV in Arizona, California, Utah, Colorado, Canada and Idaho and it is extending throughout the Valley.
“It is an alarming disease, but it has been around for a long, long time. This variant happens to be scary because it causes neurological symptoms,” said Star Valley veterinarian Drew Justice. “My suggestion is to limit travel with horses for the next few days or weeks.”
Justice cautioned that not every horse that is exposed to the disease will get sick.
“Horse owners should be cautious but not hysterical,” he said.
The outbreak started after an infected horse attended a cutting show in Ogden, Utah, spinning off a cross contamination.
Although no states have closed their border to equine travel, Colorado is requiring an entry permit. Travel is not restricted in Arizona.
All of the horses that have died or are being treated for the disease were vaccinated for Rhino, but this particular strain is immune to the vaccine.
“This airborne disease is spreading rapidly through different disciplines and many venues,” said Sherry L. Krueger with LUV Shack Ranch Horse Rescue in Cave Creek.
Payson Mayor Kenny Evans said the outbreak could be devastating, but their is no indication it is in the Payson area.
“This thing has already moved through nine states and there is no antidote,” he said. “And it could be transmitted through tack as well as animals.”
The disease is spread primarily through horses’ nasal secretions, such as when they nuzzle each other. Symptoms include hind-leg weakness, reduced coordination, nasal discharge and fever. The disease is not transmissible to humans.
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