A Equine Herpes Virus-1 outbreak which started in Utah and has spread to Washington, California, Colorado, Idaho and Canada has horse owners and organizations apprehensively watching as many shows and other events have been cancelled. So far, 17 horses have been infected and three have died.

Equine Herpes Virus-1 is of the Herpesviridae virus family. Infection causes abortion, respiratory disease and sometimes neonatal mortality in horses. If an infected horse is introduced to a previously unexposed herd, it can lead to abortion and perinatal infection in up to 70% of that herd. Infected animals can develop encephalitis, which can lead to ataxia, paralysis, and death.

Equine Herpes Virus-1 is no threat to human health. It can spread to other horses, llamas and alpacas through airborne droplets. Sharing feed, brushes and other equipment can also spread the disease.

The infected animals attended the National Cutting Horse Association Western National Championship in Ogden, Utah. Owners of the 400 horses that attended the event are being asked to monitor their animals for symptoms.

The National Cutting Horse Association announced the following on its website:

“As of 5 p.m. (Central Time) on Tuesday May 17, all NCHA-approved shows for the weekend of May 20-22 have been cancelled by the respective affiliates or show producers putting on those events. The NCHA appreciates this proactive move by show producers in a nationwide show of precaution and solidarity to help stop the spread of the contagious and potentially deadly EHV-1 virus among horses.

The Texas Quarter Horse Association (NCHA) has also cancelled the cutting classes that had been scheduled within the Texas Classic Horse Show scheduled for May 24 – 25, 2011. Reports from the TQHA are that the other (non-cutting) disciplines of the Texas Classic will still be conducted.”

The NCHA says that while currently reported cases are in the Western states, this could widen because horses are transported all over the country. The NCHA calls on all horse owners to be extremely cautious and vigilant.

The NCHA added that it supports the decisions to cancel shows – these decisions were made in the interest of horse health. The NCHA is not ordering the cancellation of shows across the country. However, it is urging all horse show organizers to seriously consider possible horse health risks, at least until the virus can be determined and contained.

The NCHA added that any owner or trainer of a horse that exhibits symptoms of EHV-1 should contact the following:
Pam Robinson at 817/244-6188 ext 111 or email probison@nchacutting.com

Written by Christian Nordqvist