Three horses at a Cache County farm have been euthanized after one was confirmed as having the equine herpes virus (EHV-1) and the others showed “neurological signs consistent” with the virus, the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food announced Thursday.
The UDAF euthanized the horses as part of its investigation into one confirmed case of EHV-1 in the state and subsequently placed a quarantine on that farm in Cache County, according to state veterinarian Bruce King.
UDAF spokesman Larry Lewis declined to comment specifically on where the farm was located within Cache County. He said the quarantine will last several weeks.
“They are aware of their situation, and to protect their property, their horses, they’re going to be taking these steps — and we trust them,” Lewis said of the farm owners. “At all times of the year, owners mingle their horses at shows and events, and … we’re trying to work upstream to determine if there are any other farms or horse owners who may have come into contact with these horses.”
To date, no other horses have become ill with similar signs, Lewis said, but officials worry other cases may surface in the coming days.
King said in a prepared statement that horse owners are advised to quickly report symptoms to their veterinarian. Equine herpes virus 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, according to UDAF news release.
While there is no cure, the symptoms of the disease “may be treatable,” King said.
“As a precaution to Utah horse owners, I advise they take extra biosecurity steps to safeguard the health of their animals,” King said in a statement. “Don’t let your horses touch other horses, especially nose to nose. Isolate horses that return to the farm from a show or event.”
EHV-1 is not transmissible to people, but the highly contagious illness in horses is known to spread rapidly — commonly through horse-to-horse contact — and can result in the death of the animal. The virus can also spread through the air, contaminated equipment, clothing and hands. The disease can also cause respiratory and neurologic diseases.
This EHV-1 case is the first in Utah since last year, when there were seven quarantined locations in Box Elder, Davis, Kane, Salt Lake and Utah counties, according to Lewis.
There were none confirmed in Cache County last year, but several local equine events were either canceled or postponed out of precaution from event organizers.
The cases in 2011 originated from horses that returned with the virus from the National Cutting Horse Association’s Western National Championships (NCHA), held at the Golden Spike Event Center in Ogden.
No origination location or event has been identified in this year’s case.